Happy Mothers Day, all you moms, although we're of the opinion that every day should be mom's day.
J-Mac started the day off right, allowing only a two-out single by Hunter Pence to open the game. The Bucs, as has been their MO this year, drew first blood.
McCutch welcomed JA Happ with a lead off single; an out later, Matt Diaz followed suit. Neil Walker drew a free pass on a full count, and Steve Pearce drove a ball to the base of the wall - another 5' of carry might have taken it over the fence - in right center to plate Andrew McCutchen and make it 1-0.
James McDonald threw a clean second, as did Happ. J-Mac put them down in order in the third, too, notching a pair of K's, his third and fourth of the game. Happ faced three Buccos; Jose Tabata drew a one-out walk, but was erased in a rundown after being caught breaking to second by the lefty Happ.
Big Mac was dealin'; he sat down Houston in the fourth 1-2-3, running up ten straight outs. The Bucs had a chance to open some distance in their half, but settled for a run.
Walker singled; Pearce legged out an infield hit when the throw took the first sacker just off the bag. Dewey walked to load the sacks with no one out, but Brandon Wood made the first out by whiffing on a pair of half-swings at balls way out of the strike zone.
Ronny Cedeno brought in Walker with a one-hop liner into right, but J-Mac killed the inning with a 4-6-3 DP, again a curious call by Clint Hurdle to allow the pitcher to swing in that situation with McCutch on deck.
McDonald took his out streak to twelve before Bill Hall roped a single into left; J-Mac answered by K'ing Humberto Quintero. The Bucs put a couple of runners aboard in their half on a Tabata walk and Diaz single, but couldn't come up with a clutch knock.
J-Mac got himself into hot water entirely of his own making in the sixth. He walked the pitcher, and an out later walked Clint Barmes. With two outs, Carlos Lee hit a dribbler up the left side; McDonald cut in front of Wood to grab the ball, even though he had no play on it. But Brett Wallace bounced out to short, so no blood, no foul. Happ had no problems setting down Pittsburgh.
That was it for McDonald, who had reached the 96 pitch mark. J-Mac went six innings of shutout ball, giving up three hits, two walks, and tying his career high in strikeouts with eight. His ERA is down to 5.85 as he has been sharp over his last three outings after a dismal start.
Chris Resop, lit up on Friday, came on in a fairly low-leverage situation - a two run lead with no runners on in the seventh. He lasted three batters. Chris Johnson drilled a homer, Bill Hall lined a single into left, and Quintero doubled him home, helped by McCutch's literal boot while playing the ball.
Resop's velocity is still there at 94-95, but he just couldn't deliver a pitch below the belt in his past pair of outings.
Joe Beimel took the ball, and Houston took advantage of the Bucco defense. Pinch hitter Angel Sanchez bunted and Wood left third uncovered. Qintero broke on the pitch; Wood double-clutched the throw when Walker was late getting to the bag, allowing Sanchez to reach first, and Quintero never slowed down. He scored standing up from second on a bunt.
The bench staff may have called the coverage, but Wood has to hold his position or one of the middle infielders has to jockey around long enough to freeze the runner for a step or two, and the infield as a unit has to get the moving parts synchronized on defense. Our guess is that Quintera's aggressive sprint caught them totally off-guard.
St. Mary's Joe cleaned up the inning, but for the second time in three games, the Buc bullpen was called on to protect a late two run lead and wasn't equal to the task. Jeff Fulchino was perfect in the Bucco half, his bacon saved by a tumbling catch of a gapper off the bat of McCutch by Pence.
The Astros were gifted a run in the eighth. Carlos Lee looped a ball into left center that McCutch made a terrific diving catch of, both to the naked eye and the replay camera; however, not to second base umpire Jeff Nelson, who ruled it a trap.
McCutchen protested, and Lee steamed into second while the outfielder waved his arms and showed the ball. A pickoff throw went under Lee and into center, giving him another base, and a sac fly brought in an insurance run.
But like last night, the Pirate attack had a late burst left. Fernando Abad came on, and with one away gave up a knock to Walker and a free pass to Pearce. Then the longest-tenured Pirate, Ryan Doumit, blasted one into the left field stands, earning himself a curtain call from the 17,946 fans in the house and giving the Pirates the lead again, 5-4.
Hanny came on and easily notched his tenth save of the season, and only his second as a result of a clean 1-2-3 frame. The Bucs are .500 on Mother's Day for only the second time since 2002; now let's see if they can take that record north in the coming months.
The Dodgers come into town tomorrow. Jeff Karstens will face Chad Billingsley.
-- Steve Pearce (.258) adds another defensive dimension to the infield when he's in, and while his hitting hasn't been overwhelming, it is holding up. We'd wouldn't be surprised to see more of a platoon situation to evolve if Lyle Overbay (.228) continues to struggle, especially as in the early going he's hitting just .133 vs LHP (lifetime .256 to Pearce's .295).
-- James McDonald's other eight K game came during his Bucco starting debut on August 8th, 2010 against the Colorado Rockies.
-- Pedro has been given the OK to pinch hit, but there's still no timetable for his return to full-time action.
-- Jose Ascanio comes off the DL and rehab next week, so the Pirates either have to put him on the roster or DFA him as he's out of options. Evan Meek is due off on May 12th, but he hasn't thrown off a mound yet, and Ohlie still appears to be quite a ways from rejoining the staff.
-- Today is the anniversary of Willie Stargell's first of 475 career long balls, a three-run shot off the Cub's Lindy McDaniels in 1963.
-- Alex Presley continues to tear it up at Indy. He's hitting .367/.413/.560 for the Tribe, following a .320/.373/.494 line in 2010, and his 40 hits are the most among IL batters.
-- Indy LHP Rudy Owens is serving a three-game suspension that was handed down by the International League for hitting a batter.
-- Jameson Taillon went five innings for West Virginia today, giving up a run on three hits and whiffing five. In eleven innings, he's 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA and an 11/2 K-to-walk line.