The Bucs must like starting in a hole; they do it so often. In the first, the sandwiched, as they so often do, two singles around a DP, coming away empty.
Jeff Keppinger, who had three hits last night, stayed on fire by homering off a fastball in the Astro first off Daniel McCutchen. That's 8 long balls in 23-2/3 innings off D-Mac, but hey, who's keeping count? If the All-Star Home Run Derby is looking for a pitcher...
The Pirates left two more aboard in the third, when a Cedeno double and Tabata walk were stranded.
McCutchen committed a mortal sin of pitching in the third; with two outs and the bases emprty, he gave Lance Berkman too much respect and walked him. Needless to add, Carlos Lee then took a changeup downtown. Pirate pitchers have been an adventure all year trying to get that third out.
MCutchen walked the next batter, and got out of the inning with a drive to the wall that Jose Tabata surrounded.
Gustavo Chacin came in to relieve Brian Moehler in the fourth, and the Bucs liked the change. Garrett Jones doubled, Pedro walked, and Dewey singled in a run. Ryan Church boomed a double, and it was 3-3, runner on second, no outs. Cedeno made the first out, crushing a ball that Michael Bourn outran.
McCutchen struck out, and McCutch hit one on the nose, but into straightaway center, a graveyard for baseballs at MM Park, especially with Bourn patrolling the pasture. But it was 3-3, and the Pirates had a new lease on life.
They charged right back in the fifth, but left the bases jammed when Church struck out swinging. Casey Daigle, the new pitcher, walked a pair; he got Church and Jones both swinging and both with undisciplined at-bats; he may have thrown one strike to each hitter.
After retiring six straight batters, McCutchen fooled around with berkman again and paid. After getting ahead 0-2, he ran the count full, and Big Elvis dinked a changeup just barely into the inviting Coleman boxes in left. After five innings, the Pirates had batted nine times with RISP, converting two. Houston hadn't gotten a runner to second, yet led, 4-3.
That was it for D-mac; his line was five innings, four runs, on four hits, with three walks and three K's.
The beat went on. DJ Carrasco's first pitch to Hunter Pence was bombed into the left-center field seats, and it was 5-3 Houston.
The only team with fewer home runs than Pittsburgh was Houston; with Pence's dinger, the Pirates dropped into the big fly cellar. The Astros have 54 homers; Berkman, Pence, and Lee have 34 of them.
The 'Stros added another run off of Evan Meek in the seventh, again on one hit - but this one didn't leave the yard; it didn't leave the infield as Bourn beat out an infield single.
A stolen base, an intentional walk against Berkman that appeared to upset Meek, and a two-out unintentional walk loaded the sacks. A slider bounced of Dewey's mitt, and the unearned run scored.
6-3 is how it ended; the Astros stranded a couple of guys in the eighth, and the Bucs left three more ducks on the pond over the last pair of innings. Just another day at Minute Maid; they're 0-5 there this season.
Ross Ohlendorf will take on Roy Oswalt tomorrow afternoon.
-- McCutch moved back to leadoff, Jose Tabata was dropped to the two hole, and Neil Walker took the third spot. Maybe without the pressure of being the three man, Andrew McCutchen can get back on track. The mini-shakeup seems fairly sound; we'll see how it works.
-- And how bad is the Pirate offense? They're twenty-one points below the league norm in batting average, have hit 23 fewer homers than average, and scored 98 fewer runs than the normal NL team. That's pretty bad.
-- Daniel McCutchen, like Brad Lincoln, had a cadre of supporters at Minute Maid Park tonight. He's a San Antonio native.
-- Hey, the Bucs got another guy that can't throw strikes, RHP Sean Gallagher. They bought him from the San Diego Padres after he was DFA'ed. He has no record with 23-1/3 IP, giving up 24 hits, getting 21 K's, and walking 19. Gallagher is also out of options, so someone goes when he arrives, probably Justin Thomas.
Pittsburgh will be Gallagher's fourth MLB club. He made his start with the Cubs, who drafted him in 2004, and also pitched parts of two seasons in Oakland before being traded to San Diego. In 60 career outings (23 starts), Gallagher is 8-9 with a 5.57 ERA. He's issued 101 walks and struck out 143 in 173 innings.
Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk described it best: "Gallagher once seemed like a pretty promising prospect, but he's now on his fourth club. Pittsburgh, sadly, is last chance lands for most guys. If he can't do anything for the Pirates, his race is basically run."
-- RHP Bryan Morris of Altoona joined teammate CF Gorkys Hernandez as a member of the All-Star Futures Game. Morris will represent the USA, and Hernandez will play for the World Team. C Tony Sanchez was also selected, but is injured.
-- Jim Callis, of Baseball America, on where he'd rate the Pirates top two draft picks of 2010 within the organization: "(Jameson) Taillon would be their No. 1 prospect. (Stetson) Allie would be in the top five for sure, and you could argue him as No. 2 on upside."