The Bucs got just a two out single from The Pittsburgh Kid against Wandy Rodriguez in the first. Houston drew first blood off Kevin Correia. With two away, Jeff Keppinger doubled and came home when Hunter Pence rolled a single through the left side.
The Bucs replied with a little two out action of their own in the second. Lyle Overbay doubled with two gone, and Eric Fryer was intentionally walked to get to KC. Correia responding by smacking a two-base knock of his own over Carlos Lee and one hopped off the wall to score the pair, and the Pirates were up 2-1 after the 'Stros went down quietly in their half.
Walker singled up the middle with one away and stole second. He died there. Rodriguez had six K's in three innings, but of the seven balls the Bucs have put in play, four have been hits. With two outs in the third, KC dropped an 0-2 curve down the middle and Clint Barmes smoked it into center for a single.
On a 3-2 pitch, Keppinger knocked a high slider into the Crawford boxes, his fourth (and second in two days against the Pirates), to give Houston the lead again. It was the only pitch of the at bat that wasn't around the edges; ump Eric Cooper has called a generous zone (enough that Brad Mills was ejected for arguing a strike call) and both pitchers have been nibbling around the outer limits. After three, it was 3-2 Houston, all five scored after two outs and the bases empty.
Wood walked with an out in the fourth. Fryer lined a low 0-2 heater into left for a knock, and KC bunted them up 90'. Alex Presley knocked a single into left to break an 0-for-10 streak and score Wood. He later stole second, but it didn't help; d'Arnaud became the eighth strikeout victim when he swung at a ball in the dirt. Still, it's tied at three and Rodriguez is up to 83 pitches.
KC got in some one-out hot water when he walked Chris Johnson and gave up a single to Brett Wallace. But he got the 8-9 guys to pop out and whiff to keep the game even.
McCutch walked with one away in the fifth, but the best that happened in that frame was that Rodriguez got to a 101 pitch count; one more inning and it's likely to be Astro bullpen time. KC pitched a clean frame.
Wood opened the sixth by rattling a double to left on a first pitch changeup. Fryer couldn't move him up, striking out on a curve in the dirt. Correia whiffed too. The King rode to the rescue; he lined a 2-2 heater into right for a double and gave the Pirates the lead.
After 118 pitches, Wandy finally got to head for the showers. Fernando Rodriguez took the hill. He sent Presley to third on a wild pitch, but d'Arnaud went down swinging at a curve in the dirt for the second time in three innings and his fourth whiff of the day.
Pence battled Correia for nine pitches, finally popping out. Lee also had a long at bat, K'ing after seven offerings. Johnson grounded out after just two pitches, but KC is up to 95 tosses. He erased the meat of Houston's order, and it'll be an interesting decision by Clint Hurdle whether or not to tickle one more frame out of him.
F-Rod plunked Diaz with two away, but got Overbay on a comebacker. The Bucs worked their usual two-fer; Joe Beimel came on to pitch and Xavier Paul manned right field. KC went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits with a walk and 4 K's, with two big RBI.
St. Mary Joe left an 0-2 slider over the plate, and Brett Wallace lined it into right for a leadoff single. Carlos Corporan, batting under the Mendoza line, fouled two bunt attempts and rolled into a 4-6-3 DP. Angel Sanchez blooped a single into left to keep the inning alive, and Bourn roped a knock the opposite way to put runners at first and second.
That was it for Beimel; D-Mac came on. Barmes was robbed of a hit when McCutchen made a diving grab of his bloop to center, sliding under a lunging Walker, and it was still 4-3 Pittsburgh after seven. Enario del Rosario took the ball for the Astros.
With one away, Fryer singled to center, and that brought Sergio Escalona out of the pen to face the X-Man. Paul flew out to center. Fryer, trying to catch the 'Stros napping, was nailed stealing second. Keppinger, Pence and Lee were due up in the eighth, and Clint Hurdle called on Jose Veras to face them.
Keppinger bounced one up the middle to open the Astro half. JV fell behind Pence 2-0; Hunter drove the next pitch to the wall in right, where Paul made the grab. Lee lined out to the track in left center. After those consecutive shots, Hurdle called on Hanny to work on a four-out save. Veras is in a post All-Star funk where he works behind the hitters, unable to drop in that first pitch strike.
The Hanrahan ploy didn't work; Johnson took a 3-2 heater on the knees and drove it into center to tie the game with a double. A wild pitch moved the go-ahead run to third. Hanny came back to strike out Brian Boguscevic, but it was a new game. The only ball that wasn't hit hard ended up the tying run. Mark Melanchon took the mound for Houston.
Presley saw nothing but fastballs and went down swinging. d'Arnaud bounced out, and Walker drilled one, but the ball was run down at the wall in right center by Pence. Hanny was back in the groove in the ninth, putting the Astros away in order.
McCutch started with a dying liner to center; Bourn dove for the catch. Mike McKenry, who came in on an earlier switch, K'ed. Overbay rolled out to second, and it was time for Chris Leroux, with Garrett Jones taking over first base. Leroux K'ed Barmes, and now had Keppinger and Pence coming up. Pretty high leverage situation for the young 'un.
Keppinger sent Presley to the fence in front of the Crawford boxes for the second out. Pence drilled a two strike slider, knee high and on the inside corner, into left for a single, a nice bit of hitting. Lee lined out to second, and it was on to the eleventh.
Melanchon, in his third inning of work, gave up an opposite field double to Wood, who was replaced by Josh Harrison at second. Jones flew out to left center, freezing the runner. Paul bled one that Melanchon mishandled; the error put runners on the corners. A cutter ran away from Humberto Quintero; the run scored and Paul moved to second on the passed ball. Presley rolled a curve into right, and Paul scored with The King taking second on the throw home.
Aneury Rodriguez jogged in from the pen, the second time the Bucs have seen three Rodriguez's this month. d'Arnaud grounded out to third, his sixth out of the day. After missing with the first two pitches, Walker was intentionally walked. You don't often see a guy worked around to get to McCutch. He dinked the first pitch; Aneury fumbled the ball, made a poor, hurried throw, and after a collision at first between McCutchen and Lee (who is generally an outfielder), Presley scored on the error. It was 7-4 Bucs with three outs to go.
Chris Resop toed the rubber, looking to get those three outs. Johnson hit one back to the box for the first out. The Astros had depleted their bench; pitcher JA Happ had to pinch hit. He K'ed for out number two. Quintero spoiled the party when he smacked a 3-2 fastball over the right field wall, his first jack of the year. Jason Michaels flew out to Paul to end it; the Bucs took advantage of Houston's misplays to take a 7-5 win.
A win is a win, and the Pirates eventually ground the Astros into submission today. Chris Leroux picked up his first MLB win and Chris Resop got his first MLB save. Give Alex Presley love; his three RBI knocks were crucial for the Pirates on a day that saw 16 Buccos strike out. The kids are alright.
The Bucs are going to need better work from their pitchers if they want the W's to outnumber the L's. The starters look as if they may be wearing down, even after the break, and are having trouble getting into the seventh. That adds wear and tear to a bullpen that's been worked hard and doesn't have much depth at the back end. In the past two days, Clint Hurdle has used ten relievers to cover eight innings, and seen a pair of blown saves and a loss.
That's why the rumors of the Pirates checking out set-up guys ring true. With Evan Meek out until sometime in August, one more arm for the high leverage situations would come in handy; the Bucs have plenty of bridge pitchers.
Pittsburgh hosts the Reds tomorrow night. Dontrelle Willis (0-0, 3.00) goes against James McDonald (5-4, 4.42).
- Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to eleven games today and was the only Pirate starter not to strike out.
- With the blown save, Joel Hanrahan's shared Pirate record of 28 consecutive conversions ended.
- The Bucs are getting into the meat of the schedule now. Cincy and St. Louis visit Pittsburgh, with road trips to Atlanta and Philly to follow.