Hey, nothing like starting out like a house on fire. The Bucs struck for a three spot in the first off Bud Norris, primed by an error and a two-out, two run single by Lastings Milledge, who brought home Neil Walker and Garrett Jones.
But in classic Bucco style, Ross Ohlendorf gave it back and more in the second. A leadoff homer, a hit batter, single, double, single, double, walk...well, it was enough to get Ohlie the hook.
The only out he recorded in the second was when Michael Bourn got tangled up trying to advance to third on a grounder while pitcher Norris stood on the sack. Oooops. Ohlie lasted 1-1/3 innings, giving up runs on five hits, two walks, a beaned batter, and a K. It's the third time this year he's failed to hold a 3-0 lead.
Wonder how long it's been since DJ Carrasco came on in the second inning, with the bases loaded yet? Anyway, he thrived on it; he retired the first eight batters he faced. And the 6-4-3 DP ball he fed to Carlos Lee may have been the game saving pitch.
The Bucs came right back to regain the lead when Jose Tabata doubled home Ronny Cedeno and Andrew McCutchen, who had doubled and walked.
They blew a golden opportunity to add on in the third. Pedro led off with a double, went to third on Milledge's ground out - he was looking to hit it to the right side every swing - and then inexplicably stayed anchored on an Erik Kratz tapper up the middle.
It wasn't a sure run with the infield in, but with the eight hitter up next - who was walked to get to the pitcher - a contact play should have been on, especially with the game situation. The coaching, or Pedro's hesitation, cost Pittsburgh that possible tally. No excuse in either case.
Carrasco carried the lead into the fifth. With two on - the first runners he had allowed - and two out, JR brought on Javier Lopez after a single. Lopez, a LOOGY, faced the right-handed Chris Johnson; he belted a two-strike off speed pitch to the wall, scoring both runners to make it 6-5 and ruining Carrasco's strong effort.
The Pirates weren't done in front of 36,665 fans in the house. With two outs in the fifth, Milledge, Kratz, Cedeno, and Ryan Church all lined singles to put the Bucs ahead 7-6. For Kratz, it was his first hit in his first MLB start, and in front of his family, who were in the stands. Good stuff for a 30 year-old rookie.
Pittsburgh added some insurance in the sixth when Tabata led off with a parachute double into left and came home on Walker's liner to right. When the ball went through Hunter Pence's wickets, Walker sprinted to third and scored on a wild pitch. Talk about role reversals! It made it 9-6, Pirates, with three frames to go.
Casey Daigle, who earned his first win in six years against the Bucs in Houston, didn't have the same luck tonight. Pittsburgh greased the way for the fat lady in the eighth when they put together a three spot.
McCutch singled and stole a base, and Walker doubled him in. Jones singled to put runners on the corners, and Pedro roped one into right to score Walker. Kratz knocked home Jones, and added another ball to his growing collection, this one for his first RBI.
Octavio Dotel pitched a clean ninth, and the Bucs played a clean game to come out on top 12-6.
The bullpen, except for Lopez's hit (and as fate would have it, he got the win), stood tall. Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan (who struck out the side) and Dotel held the 'Stros at bay. Everyone but Sean Gallagher worked tonight.
The Pirates made all the plays in the field, and pounded out 17 hits, drove in five two-out runs, and were 10-for-21 with RISP, their best RISP showing since 2005. The Zambelli brothers didn't provide the only fireworks tonight.
It's way too soon to say that they had a breakout night, but it sure was nice to watch some real baseball for a change, a game the Pirates played right while the Astros made the bloopers.
Paul Maholm gets the call against Roy Oswalt tomorrow afternoon.
-- The Pirates officially announced the signing of Mel Rojas Jr. yesterday and said he'll report to the short-season State College Spikes. His bonus was reported to be in the $435,000 range, but we haven't verified that figure. The scouts were all over the board regarding him, so it should be interesting to watch him play as a pro.
-- Starling Marte is supposed to return to action Monday after suffering some soreness in his hand after coming back from surgery.