Ah, what a start. With one away, Neil Walker and McCutch drew walks. The next hitter, Garrett Jones, swung at the first pitch he saw (it was a juicy fastball) and flew out, then Pedro K'ed swinging over a slow curve.
Brad Lincoln knocked down Michael Bourn's grounder that left Neil Walker no play, and the disruptive Bourn stole second and came in on a fly and ground out. To add insult to injury, with two down, Carlos Lee jumped a 94 MPH heater and dumped it over the centerfield fence. 2-0, Astros.
Same man, same problem in the third. With one away, Bourn singled, and Lincoln fed Jeff Keppinger a fastball diet. He caught one on the inside half, belt high, and drove it into left for a double that brought home Bourn.
He gave Lance Berkman a 1-2 heater, belt high and outside half this time, and he took it the opposite way, down the line and barely over the short left field fence. It was getting ugly.
And the frustrations mount. The Pirates brought a run in and had the bases loaded with one away in the fourth. Bobby Crosby continued the Pirate struggles with runners on third and less than two outs when he popped out, and JR let Bad Brad - who has a decent stick for a pitcher - bat. He struck out swinging on a curve in the dirt.
He would last another inning; his final line was five frames worked, five runs surrendered on seven hits, two walks, and no K's. Lincoln's curve and change couldn't catch the plate, and his heat was upstairs. It's hard to blow fastballs past everyone at this level.
Houston added a run off Javier Lopez, and the Bucs got one back when Walker doubled and scored on a Jones single. 6-2 was how it would end.
The Pirate road woes are Herculean; they're 11-33 away from PNC Park, where they're a much more respectable 19-20. Maybe they should take the Parrot and Pierogies along next time they board a plane.
Daniel McCutchen takes on Brian Moehler in game #2.
-- Tonight's game was a homecoming for Brad Lincoln, who grew up near the Houston area in Clute. He lives 15 minutes out of town in the suburb of Pearland, and had 150-200 family and friends in attendance for his first MLB start in Houston, nicely located behind the Pirate dugout. Lincoln was drafted out of the University of Houston and pitched in Minute Maid Park as a Cougar.
-- Steve Pearce avoided the knife, for the time being. The beat guys report that he's going to get a shot for his tendinitis tomorrow, get shut down for a week or so, and begin rehab again. He's out of action until at least August.
-- In a bit of a scheduling oddity, the Pirates play their next 13 games against the Astros and Brewers. They visit them before the All-Star break and host them afterward.
-- Not sure what to make of this, but Jeff Clement caught a game last night for Indy. Some intriguing implications, though.
-- Speaking of Indy, here's what some old Buccos are doing there: Aki Iwamura (.308/0/2, 26 AB), Jeff Clement (.266/4/17, 94 AB), Brendan Moss (.239/10/43, 280 AB) and Charlie Morton (1-3, 4.50 ERA, 6 starts - 32 IP).
-- Remember Brent Lillilbridge, the Pirate SS prospect that was part of the 2007 Adam LaRoche deal? He's bumped Gordon Beckham out of the White Sox second base spot for the time being. We don't expect it to last too long; Lillibridge's glove has always been sound but his bat (.177/.258/.251) has kept him a fringe MLB utility player.