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Ward homers in nightcap loss
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09/09/2004 11:18 PM ET 
Ward homers in nightcap loss
Fogg hit for eight runs on eight hits for the loss

Craig Wilson lost the ball when he collided with the wall. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

PITTSBURGH -- When the most memorable play of the night is a balk by your starting pitcher, chances are it just wasn't your night.

That was certainly the case for the Pirates in their 9-2 loss on Thursday to the Houston Astros in the second game of a doubleheader.

On the heels of Pirates starter Oliver Perez's dominating, 14-strikeout performance in Game 1 to snap Houston's 12-game winning streak, the nightcap paled in comparison in both drama and execution.

Pirates right-hander Josh Fogg (9-10), who had gone 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA during his previous five starts, never found his groove. Despite not being hit particularly hard all night, he ended up allowing eight runs on eight hits and two intentional walks in 6 2/3 innings.

The turning point of the game came in the third inning. With Houston leading, 2-0, Fogg suffered a brief bout of wildness, hitting Orlando Palmeiro and uncorking a wild pitch after a Carlos Beltran single. Fogg then was called for a balk when he began his windup, stopped, and then threw the ball home once he'd been caught.

"I knew as soon as I stepped off and stopped that it was a balk," said Fogg. "I tried to play it off, but it didn't work. It was just a brain [freeze].

"I got a little confused with the signs. I tried to stop and make sure, but I was in the windup. Just one of those things you hope doesn't happen too often in your career. When it does, you feel naked on the mound. Everybody is looking at you and you know that you've just screwed up. It just compounded the night for me."

Palmeiro scored on the balk. Beltran followed him home on Mike Lamb's groundout to make it 4-0.

"It was a poor job by me," said Fogg. "They've got a good team over there, but if I make some better pitches in certain situations, I have a better chance of winning. I didn't do a very good job. You take your lumps, come back in five days and go get the next one."

The Pirates' defense didn't do much to help Fogg's cause. Right fielder Craig Wilson appeared to mistime his jump on Beltran's triple off the right-field wall in the fifth inning. Beltran would score one batter later. In the seventh, Wilson also lost control of Palmeiro's RBI double when he ran into the outfield wall after tracking down the long fly ball to right-center field.

Later in the seventh inning, shortstop Jack Wilson botched a potential inning-ending double play ball with the bases loaded and one out. With the inning extended, the Astros would tack on three additional runs to take an 8-2 lead.

"Craig makes a great catch then hits the wall and it pops out. Those kinds of things happen," said Jack Wilson. "If I don't boot that double-play ball, it's still 5-2. Fogg makes the pitch he needs to make to get out of the inning, and it doesn't work. That changed the game right there."

Freddy Sanchez, who replaced Wilson at shortstop in the eighth inning, continued the Bucs' tough defensive night in his Pittsburgh debut by committing a throwing error on the first ball hit to him.

"There's not a rock big enough for you to hide under when that stuff happens," said Sanchez. "It's embarrassing."

With nine runs in the second game, the Astros are averaging 8.5 runs per game during their current 13-1 stretch.

Daryle Ward's two-run home run (16) off Astros starter Tim Redding in the fourth inning was the only offensive highlight for the Pirates on a night when they were held to six hits.

"As good as a team that there is over there, we gave them a ball game tonight for the most part," said McClendon. "We pretty much handed it to them. There were a lot of missed opportunities on both sides of the ball."

Redding, making his first big league start since July 29, and first big league appearance since August 10, came up 1/3 of an inning short of qualifying for the win. He took a 5-2 lead into the fifth inning but was relieved by Mike Gallo (1-0) when the Bucs threatened by putting two men on with two outs.

Four Houston relievers combined to blank the Pirates over the final 4 1/3 innings.

The loss dropped the Pirates to 7-22 in their last 29 games.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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