In the first, the Astro's Brett Myers made the Pirates look like they had never seen a curve ball before. After McCutch singled on a fastball, he only threw one more that frame. Ohlie? Well, he struggled.
He gave up an infield single that wasn't particularly well played by Argenis Diaz, followed by a lined knock by Hunter Pence. He walk Carlos Lee after being ahead 1-2 to juice the sacks. But when it looked bleak, Ohlie whiffed Geoff Blum, and got ahead of Chris Johnson 0-2 before a skied fly to medium right.
The Bucs got the leadoff guy aboard in the second, too, when Pedro rolled one up the middle. As in the first, it led to nothing. The 'Stros got a two-out flare by Myers, but no damage ensued.
McCutch's wheels brought home the Bucs first run in the third inning. He legged out an infield single with one away, stole second, moved to third on a ground out, and came in on Neil Walker's two-out, 1-2 liner into center.
Ohlie was in the groove in the third; he struck out the first pair from Houston and got Lee on a popper to the hill. For the third time in four innings, the Bucs got the leadoff hitter aboard when Pedro roped a single into right center. And for the third time, it didn't make a difference.
Milledge flew out to the track in right center. Snyder flew out to the track in left. Diaz gave the ball a ride, too, but into the death trap of Minute Maid's center field. A close but no cigar inning for the Pirates, who surely lead the league in balls to the track.
Ohlie kept doing his thing, getting Houston on three fly balls. Myers one-upped him, striking out the side swinging in the fifth. Ohlie got a come-backer and K to open his half, then walked Michael Bourn, never a good idea. He stole second, costing Angel Sanchez a couple of called strikes. It also cost him the at-bat; he went down swinging.
Pedro collected his third knock of the evening with a two-out ground rule double down the left field line, but Thrilledge ended the inning with a bouncer to second. Ohlendorf 1-2-3'ed the Astros, leaving it 1-0 after six.
With one out in the seventh, Diaz punched a single into left. Ohlie didn't help himself, though, striking out trying to lay down a bunt. Diaz tried to get in scoring position himself, but was nailed trying to steal second. He's not much a thief; he only had 38 stolen bases in his minor league career, with a 64% success rate.
Ohlie hung tough; he struck out Chris Johnson in a seven pitch at-bat, and came back from 3-0 to get Brett Wallace on a fly. Humberto Quintero, who owns the Pirate staff, lined a single into right. Pedro Feliz pinch hit for Myers, and JR waved in Chris Resop, who did his job, getting a ground out.
Ohlendorf's velocity was dropping, and he was up to 104 pitches. He went 6-2/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up four hits, walking a pair, and striking out seven in another strong effort. It was up to the top of the order to try to dent Houston's bullpen for some insurance to snap Ohlie's streak of bad luck.
Wilton Lopez got McCutch on a ball back to the mound. He got Tabata looking on a ball that Hunter Wendelstedt missed, well outside; he was inconsistent all night. Walker smoked a single into left, but Jones popped out to end the inning; his 0-fer night dropped his average to .258.
Time for the Terrible Twos. Evan Meek took the hill in the eighth to face the top of the Houston lineup. He got Bourn on a grounder to first, and Sanchez blooped a single to right on a 3-2 count; Meek threw every pitch to him away. Meek missed badly against Pence, walking him on five pitches, and Houston had something cooking.
It was more than cookin' when Lee took a belt high slider down the middle and pulled it inside the left field foul pole on the line to give the Astros a 3-1 lead. Ohlie can't win for losin'. A 3.95 ERA and one win in August!
The Stro's weren't done. Three more singles brought in another run and a new pitcher, Wil Ledezema, who put out the fire. Meek simply couldn't keep the ball below the belt, and more often it came in higher; they call that BP in the show.
While some pitchers - Carlos Zambrano comes to mind - would throw a fit and foam at the mouth, Ohlie went over to Meek, leaning against the dugout looking like someone ran his dog over, and offered a couple of words of comfort (not for the dog, but for Lee's at-bat). Chemistry may not mean much, but it looks like the team is still staying together, a good omen down the road.
And one thing to keep an eye on - Meek looked uncomfortable on the mound, and after the game his calf was wrapped in ice. He called it the usual aches and pains; let's hope it's just that.
The Bucs got the tying run to the plate to open the ninth when Pedro walked and Milledge dropped a gift single into right, but a Chris Snyder K and Delwyn Young 6-4-3 DP ended it. The DP hurt; a short passed ball had advanced Alvarez to third, but Milledge stayed on first, possibly mindful of the score and not wanting to take a risk. Danged if you do, danged if you don't.
We know the Pirate suits broke up the bullpen because they got a couple of decent players for rental pieces and thought that Meek and Hanrahan were ready to move up an inning. And in the long run, it'll probably pay off. But for now, it's painful to watch the transition through its growing pains.
Paul Maholm will go against Bud Norris tomorrow. Maholm is the last starter to win at Houston, taking three victories in 2009. The last starter to win there before him was Matty Morris in 2007.
-- SS Ronny Cedeno might miss the entire series against the Astros due to a left shoulder impingement. Argenis Diaz will start at shortstop while Cedeno is out. JR said Neil Walker would be Diaz’s emergency backup.
-- The pitcher with he most consecutive starts with four runs or less in support since 1974? Ross Ohlendorf, with 24, according to FSN. It's not always right to point the finger at the pitching, as tempting as that option generally is.
-- The Pirates are making their third trip to Minute Maid Park this season, and looking for their first win. They are 0-7 so far this season. The team is also on a five game losing streak overall, with eight straight games lost on the road. Lotta streaks kept on keepin' on tonight.
-- Lastings Milledge extended his hitting streak to ten games tonight.
-- Andrew Lambo, who the Pirates got in the Dotel deal, made this week's Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. Lambo has a nine game hitting streak, and hit safely in 10 of 11 games since being traded to Pirates.
-- Baseball America also reports that RHP Jeff Sues, once protected on the forty man roster, has been released from Altoona.
-- RHP Travis Chick of Indy, who was on the DL, was shipped to the Rangers for PTBNL or cash. He was a recent indy league pickup.