Jordan Lyles got Alex Presley on a liner to the box to open the game, then for safety's sake he fanned Josh Harrison. Cutch singled, but Garrett Jones rolled over on the next pitch that was down and away to ground out to short. AJ got the first hitter when Jose Altuve lined out to right, but had no such luck with Scott Moore, who drilled an outside corner heater and doubled the opposite way. Brett Wallace whiffed fishing for a full count curve, Fernando Martinez bounced to Jones, and it was a scoreless first frame.
Pedro fanned to open the second, chasing a couple of pitches out of the zone, and Snider did the same thing. There's not been much reason for Lyle to toss a strike so far. Barmes flew out to bring up the 'Stros. Burnett tossed a clean inning, picking up a couple of K.
Hot Rod reached on an error by SS Tyler Greene to start the third and was bunted to second. After a Presley fly out, Josh legged out an infield knock. Cutch jumped on the first pitch and lined it to center where Barnes made a run-saving diving grab. After a whiff and comebacker by the Astros, AJ walked Altuve on five pitches, and after a couple of pick-off tosses, stole second. Moore was credited with an infield single when Harrison couldn't come up cleanly with his grounder, but it worked out as Altuve tried to sneak home and was nailed.
Jones lined a 2-1 heater to center for a knock to begin the fourth. Pedro went down swinging at a shoe-top hook and Snider flew out the opposite way. Barmes singled to put Pirates at first and second. Hot Rod hit a bouncer that the Astros couldn't convert into an out when they muffed the force, leaving the sacks jammed for AJ. He at least put it into play, bouncing to the shortstop hole and trotting to first (he'd have been out even at a dead sprint) for another Bucco goose egg. Burnett is pitching full speed, though, icing Houston with another pair of whiffs.
The King was up 3-0 in the count in the fifth, got the green light and singled to right, the third straight leadoff hitter to reach against Lyles. In an at bat that saw as many throws to first as pitches, Harrison banged a heater to left on a hit-and-run to put Bucs at the corners. Lyles battled Cutch, working nothing but the edges, and finally losing him after nine pitches. That was it for Lyles, who has a history of fith inning meltdowns, and Wesley Wright took the ball. Jones handed the bat to Gaby Sanchez as the managerial wheels spun.
Score one for Clint Hurdle; Gaby took a pitch (on the foot) for the team, earning a painful RBI. Pedro is having one of those days; after battling Wright, he looked at strike three on a borderline call, but too close to take. JT hit for Snider, and Mike Storey came in for the match up. Tabata watched four balls miss the dish and took an easy RBI. Barmes pulled an 0-2 slider softly over shortstop, singling in another run. Hot Rod blooped a pitch to left, plating another Pirate. AJ whiffed and Presley tapped back to the hill, but now AJ had a 4-0 lead to work with. And he did what a vet does after going ahead, putting Houston down in order.
Josh started off the sixth with his third single of the day. Cutch has been square on the ball today; he took a 2-2 slider off the wall in left to bring Harrison home, missing a dinger by a foot or so. Chuckie Fick got the call from the pen, getting Gaby on a roller that moved McCutch to the hot corner and then issuing Pedro an intentional walk. JT whiffed after nine pitches, looking at a heater that caught the outside black. Barmes went down swinging at a slider, and even with stranding another guy at third, it was 5-0 Bucs. After AJ put away the first two Astros, Moore clocked a heater down the middle and lost it in the right field seats to make it 5-1, his third knock today. Burnett came back to whiff Wallace, his ninth K of the game.
With two away in the seventh, The King yanked a slider down and away to right for a triple; Nick Leyva almost had to tackle him to keep him from charging home. Harrison flew out to leave another runner stranded; maybe Nick should have waved Presley on. AJ kept dealing; three Astros, three bounce outs.
Enerio Del Rosario toed the rubber for Houston in the eighth. He got Cutch looking; the Bucs aren't doing a great job of umpiring today. Sanchez got ahead 3-1 and ripped a fastball to left for a double. Pedro singled him in, going to second on the throw. JT plated him with a knock to center. After a Barmes pop out, Hot Rod singled Tabata to third. AJ even joined the party, lining a knock to right to score JT. That brought Rhiner Cruz to the mound, who got Presley to roll out. Good thing it's September as the Astros have gone through twenty pitchers during the series so far. After a K, his tenth, AJ gave up a knock to Bruce Laird and plunked Brian Bogusevich. He whiffed Jimmy Paredes and finally retired Moore on a fly to left to strand the pair.
Harrison opened the ninth with his fourth single, smacking a 3-2 fastball that almost hit him to left. Cutch bounced into a force, followed by a single to left by Sanchez. Pedro earned another Golden Sombrero by K'ing for the fourth time and JT bounced out. AJ left after going eight innings, giving up a run on four hits and a walk, fanning 11 on 109 pitches; 110 is his season high. Chad Qualls came on tie the bow, with Starling Marte taking over in center. He tossed a clean frame, and the Bucs had their fifth win of the month.
AJ was on; too bad the bats couldn't have brought a couple of those runs home yesterday. The game took almost 3-1/2 hours and the Bucs stranded 16 runners, but hey, we'll take it. The Bucs start their final road series of the year against the Mets tomorrow night with Kyle McPherson going against Jenrry Mejia.
- AJ is the first 16 game winner for Pittsburgh since 1991 when John Smiley went 20-8 and Zane Smith 16-10. He also set his season high in strikeouts today with 11. He had 10 Ks twice this season.
- Josh Harrison had a season-high four hits today, all singles.