The Bucs put themselves in a familiar position when JT led off the Pirate half with a triple to right off JA Happ. But unlike last night, the next batter, Neil Walker, cashed him in with a sac fly. Cutch dropped a knock into right and went to second on a weak hopper by Pedro. He took third uncontested, and Casey McGehee walked. He took second on a ball in the dirt, but the runners were left stranded when Yamaico Navarro couldn't catch up to two-strike heater. Still, it was nice to see a run on the board.
Brian Bogusevic opened the second with an infield single and moved to second when he was off on a 3-2 pitch that Justin Maxwell grounded sharply to short. Matt Downs had the green light on a 3-0 pitch, and grounded out to third. Eight hitter Chris Snyder was walked intentionally, and Happ tapped back to the mound. Two innings, six groundouts. So far, so good. The bottom of the Buc order came up, and quickly sat down.
The only ball hit on the ground in the third was by leadoff hitter Jordan Schafer, who rolled a single past a diving Walker. Lowrie lined out to third, with Pedro making a nice stab while playing in, looking for a bunt. The 'Stros put on the hit and run, but Jose Altuve hit it in the air to right. JT made the grab and doubled Schafer off first easily.
The Bucs hit a couple of rockets in the their half. Walker, who has had no luck this year, roped a drive to left center that Schafer corralled with a sweet running stab in front of the bullpen. McCutch wasn't gonna put up with Schafer's stuff; he lined a ball over the Xfinity sign in right center to make it 2-0.
Morton got back his mojo, getting three balls rolled in the dirt in the fourth. The Bucs also went down in order.
Houston cut the lead in half when with one away, Snyder hit a weak one hopper to third. Alvarez charged and barehanded the ball but rushed the throw, allowing the lead-footed catcher to get to second. Walker made a nice play on a chop by Happ, but Schafer brought home the bacon with a two-out double to right. Navarro cut the ball off and made a strong throw to second, but the speedy Schafer beat the play. Another grounder ended the frame.
The Bucs got the run back when with two outs and two strikes, Jose Tabata lifted what looked like a harmless fly to right. But it carried just enough to drop over the Clemente Wall, landing barely inside the pole to make it 3-1.
But the Astros had an answer. Altuve singled up the middle, just out of Barme's reach. Carlos Lee hit a soft liner to left, and it popped out of JT's mitt. Bogusevic lined a hanging curve into right to jam the sacks. But Ground Chuck lived up to his nickname. Justin Maxwell hit a slow bouncer to short, and Barmes made a heads up play to get the runner at third as a run scored. Downs rolled a pitch sharply to short, and the 6-4-3 ended the frame with the Bucs still up 3-2.
Pittsburgh at long last had a crooked number in them. Cutch legged out a single to short and El Toro doubled to the opposite field. That was it for Happ, bringing on Rhiner Cruz. He worked around McGehee, walking him on five pitches, getting a somewhat iffy strike call, to load the bases. Garrett Jones pinch hit for Navarro, and had a rough at-bat, hacking at everything. He reached out and on a virtual check swing hit a hopper to second. With the infield in, Cutch was dead at home on the force.
Barmes got into a two strike hole, but managed to lift one to medium center. Schafer's arm doesn't equal his feet, and Alvarez scored standing up. The throw was well up the first base line and the other Pirate runners moved up 90', which would lead to another score. Snyder tried to pick a ball in the dirt instead of blocking it, and the Bucs were up 5-2 when McGehee slid home. Felix Abad came on and K'ed Alex Presley, who was pinch hitting. That was it for Morton, who went six innings, giving up two runs on eight hits and a walk without a K.
Chris Resop climbed the hill for the seventh. Snyder opened with a double off Alvarez's glove. After a K, Resop hit the showers as Clint Hurdle called on the lefty Tony Watson to face the top of the Astro order. He got a short fly to center followed by Lowrie taking one to the wall in straightaway center, where Cutch took it in.
David Carpenter took the bump for Houston. The Bucs stirred with two outs when Cutch dropped his fourth hit into left (he's 11-for-20 during this homestand) and El Toro walked, but he got McGehee to pop out. Watson put Houston away in order in the eighth. Brandon Lyon likewise got the Bucs 1-2-3.
Juan Cruz came out looking for the save and got it, allowing just a groundball single. It was his third of the campaign, icing Charlie Morton's second win.
What a diff a night makes. Yesterday the Bucs were left footed; today the Astros were 2-for-13 with RISP. On to the series decider tomorrow afternoon, when Wandy Rodriguez hooks up with AJ Burnett.
- The Pirates finally drew a nice crowd tonight, with 34,187 fans spinnin' the PNC turnstiles.
- Pedro Alvarez collected his first hit out of the clean-up spot this season when he doubled in the sixth, breaking an 0-for-22 snap.
- Jose Altuve, Houston's 5' 5" second baseman, was the only righty to homer off Morton last year.
- The Pirates announced that Eric Bedard's back spasms will cause just a minor shift in the rotation. Brad Lincoln will go on Monday against Miami, and Bedard is slated to return Wednesday to face Washington. That, in effect, will give every starter working behind Bedard an extra day off.
- Alex Presley is in a 3-for-34 slump since April 29th.
- Joel Hanrahan is expected back from Iowa and his grandmother's funeral in time for tomorrow's game.
- Clint Hurdle told the Post Gazette's Bill Brink that newly acquired "Jeff Larish will shuffle between 1st, 3rd and DH for Indy. (He'll) mix in with (Matt) Hague, (Jake) Fox, and (Jeff) Clement." So at least for the time being, the Buc's 25-man roster is safe and Larish is replacing the injured Nick Evans at Indy.
- SS Jordy Mercer has a 13 game hitting streak at Indy.