After the break, it's a new season, right? Well, not exactly, if you're the Pirates.
Zach Duke didn't allow a ball out of the infield, but a leadoff swinging bunt single to third by LF Jason Bourgeois followed by a pair of stolen bases made it 1-0 Astros before the Bucs stepped to the plate. Another first frame run, and more frustration in even slowing down an opponent's running game.
It was more of the same in the second. Hunter Pence started the inning with a ground ball single, went to second on a wild pitch that looked imminently catchable but managed to elude Dewey, and scored on a two-out dink double up the right field line by the eight hitter, Humberto Quintero. Quintero is a notorious opposite field hitter; the Pirates obliged by pitching him away.
Give away a base, then can't get the third out; can't get through the bottom of the order; and can't get a a good scouting report on a hitter. Yep, it's the Pirates, all right.
In the fourth, the 'Stros had a runner on first and two away; he went on Duke's first move, and Duke's move was to first. Picked off, right? Wrong. The runner Pence got in a rundown, Jones didn't run him toward second, Duke was maybe a step late getting involved, and Ronny Cedeno opted to go for the tag instead of the throw. He was late, and Pence got back to the bag.
Fortunately, the inability to finish a rundown didn't hurt; the batter softly lined out to Neil Walker to end the frame and keep it 2-0.
The Bucs did it right in their half. Andrew McCutchen led off with a double, the Pirates' first hit, was moved to third on a grounder to second by Jose Tabata, and blazed home on a short sac fly by Walker.
In the fifth, the Houston leadoff man reached for the third time, but didn't come around. Quintero took another pitch away and chipped it the opposite way for a single and was bunted to second, but Duke K'ed the next two hitters to escape the mild jam and the first time that a leadoff runner didn't come around to score.
As expected after his layoff, Duke had a short outing. He went five innings, giving up two runs on five hits with five K's, throwing 78 pitches. Duke was sharp tonight, hitting the corners and keeping balls away from the middle of the plate. DJ Carrasco came on in the sixth, and was roughed up immediately.
He gave up a leadoff homer to Jeff Keppinger, struck out Lance Berkman, and then surrendered a single, walk, and wild pitch. The wild pitch would hurt when a perfectly executed suicide squeeze brought home the fourth Houston tally.
The Pittsburgh follies continued in the sixth. With two on and two out, Walker swung through a curve, the catcher came up firing to second and caught a diddling Andy LaRoche napping - picked off down by three runs. Only in Pirateland.
The Pirates threw up the white flag in the seventh when they brought in Sean Gallagher. He walked Michael Bourn with one out - the pitcher lined out - balked him to second, and then gave up a two-out single to allow Bourn to plate; McCutch missed the ball, putting the batter at second.
The Pirates got Brett Myers out of the game in the eighth, when a leadoff Lastings Milledge double came in on a two-out single by McClutch. Myers went 7-2/3 frames, giving up two runs on five hits with a walk and four K's. He proved that, at least in Pittsburgh's case, the softer you throw, the harder they fall.
Houston's bullpen got the final four outs routinely, and the Pirates, in front of 23,000+ who were hoping for a new slate, came up with the same ol' in losing their seventh in a row to Houston, 5-2.
Tomorrow night, Ross Ohlendorf takes the mound against Bud Norris.
-- JR announced that Lastings Milledge will be the regular RF, ending the platoon system with Ryan Church. About time.
-- The Pirates have now lost seven in a row. Four of those losses are to the Astros.
-- Evan Meek may not have gotten in the All-Star game, but he showed his stuff tonight, striking out the side in the eighth inning.
-- Pedro has hit safely in ten of his last eleven games.
-- Chris Jakubaukas was placed on the 60-day DL to make room for C Erik Kratz.