Holt opened with a whiff, swinging through a heater after watching a pair down the middle. Travis Snider whiffed chasing a high heater; the Bucs need to get a little aggressive early in the count against journeyman Edgar Gonzalez instead of working out of 0-2 holes. Cutch bounced out to first, and the soft tossing Mexican Leaguer - his gas is 89-90 - needed just nine pitches to sit down the Pirates.
Locke settled in against the bottom of the order in the second. Chris Snyder popped out, Brandon Barnes was caught looking on a borderline call, and Gonzalez went down looking, too. Garrett Jones opened with a double off a heater, barely getting the ball past Barnes who made a great effort on it. Sweet Caesar's ghost, Gaby Sanchez tried to bunt the first pitch, eventually flying out to right. Pedro bounced out, moving GI to third. Barajas flew out to center, and the Bucs put up another goose egg trying to square up on changes and curves.
Facing the top of the order again in the third, Locke lost Greene on a 3-2 pitch with one away. Wallace whacked the first pitch to right, putting Astros on the corners. Maxwell hit into a force, and it was 2-0 before Downs fanned to end the frame. The 8-9-1 hitters came up against Gonzalez, and he punched out a pair, doing a much better job off keeping the ball out of the middle of the zone since the first.
Locke returned the favor in the fourth, whiffing two Astros. With two away, Jones took a full count change into center; he's the only guy with an answer to Gonzalez in the early sledding. Sanchez bounced out, and the Bucs have another zero on the board. Gonzalez has done a decent job off keeping the ball down and tossing junk; he uses the heater for a first strike and then as a chase pitch, and it's working so far this afternoon.
With an out, Locke fed Altuve an 0-2 meatball that he spanked into center. Again on an 0-2 pitch, Locke tossed a strike; Greene beat it into the ground but reached on an infield knock that Clint Barmes double clutched, losing not only the out but a possible DP. Maybe a bit shook up, Locke fed Wallace a curve at the knees, down the middle, and he knocked it over the right center fence to put Houston up 5-0. The top three hitters for Houston are 7-for-8 with a walk and scored all five runs. Pittsburgh's are 0-for-6.
Pedro got ahead 3-0, took a strike, then ripped a change for a triple to open the Bucco half on another ball that Barnes almost outran. Barajas whiffed swinging at a breaking pitch in the dirt. Barmes looked at a pair of strikes and then fought off a jam job, dropping a single to right. Jeff Clement grabbed a stick for Locke, and blasted a ball to center, but Barnes was under it on the track. Holt flew out, and it was 5-1 Astros after five.
Locke went five, giving up five runs on seven hits and a walk with 6 K, tossing 76 pitches. His stuff wasn't as bad as his line, but he needs to work the edges more and manage a game better at this level; hopefully this is a learning moment for the young lefty. Kyle McPherson took the hill, and Dominguez greeted him with a knock to right. Chris Snyder followed with a knock up the middle, hitting a pretty good pitch in and at the knees. K-Mac K'ed Barnes after a pesky seven-pitch at bat on a slider. Gonzalez bunted the runners up a station, but he coaxed Altuve to fly out.
Snider drew a four pitch walk to open the Bucco sixth. Cutch bounced into a force. Jones collected his third hit, a knock to right, to put Bucs at first and second. Mickey Storey came on to face Sanchez and K'ed him on three pitches as Gaby took a pair of changes over the heart of the plate and swung at a dirtball. Pedro bounced out, and time was slipping away.
K-Mac put away the 'Stros 1-2-3 in the seventh. Nice enough line - 2 innings, 2 hits, 2 Ks. Alex Presley hit for Hot Rod and took a pair of strikes before flying out. Barmes popped out and The Fort, batting for K-Mac, went down swinging. Hisanori Takahashi toed the rubber in the eighth, and got Brian Bogusevich swinging to open the frame. Dominguez singled to left, followed by a K job to Snyder, who missed a change. Barnes whiffed, too, swinging through ball four. Now it's up to the bats; they have six outs to go.
Wesley Wright stepped on the hill for the eighth. Josh Harrison pinch hit for Brock and flew out, as did Snider and Cutch. Jared Hughes jogged in from the pen for the ninth and struck out the side. The Bucs brightest hope, GI Jones, grounded out to first on Wright's first pitch to open the Pirate ninth. Sanchez went down swinging on three pitches. It took four pitches to sit Pedro down.
Can't imagine a more disappointing, listless start to the home series. Jeff Locke pitched much like Erik Bedard, and the Pirates looked lost at the dish, throwing away at-bats like pennies down a well. GI Jones had three hits; the rest of the team had two. There's always tomorrow, but even those are running down the hourglass with 28 games to go. The Bucs have to look in the mirror and admit that they're beating themselves, no matter how much hoo-rah comes out of the locker room.
Wandy Rodriguez takes on Jordan Lyles tomorrow night.
- Injury updates: Clint Hurdle said in the pre-game media chat that Neil Walker could be ready by the weekend. Starling Marte was running bases; we'll know more about him when he swings a bat, though there's a chance he could start his minor league rehab by mid-week. Chad Qualls is in Indy for his rehab stint; we believe he's eligible for recall September 8th or so. And finally, Jeff Karstens is throwing, but on flat ground.
- This is Houston's last PNC appearance as a member of the NL Central; they move on to the AL West next season. Good luck with that. The Bucs will visit Minute Maid on September 21st-23rd to bid adieu to their long time division mates from back in the days of the Astrodome and Three Rivers Stadium.
- It was Indy's last game and they had Jeff Larish play all nine positions. Indy won 2-0 and Larish, usually a corner infielder/outfielder, earned a save. he didn't get to catch, though, as rain shortened the game. Oh, and 360 pound P Jose (Jumbo) Diaz stole a base. Chad Qualls struck out the side in his inning of work, and Cincy's Joey Votto, playing for Louisville, went 0-for-3.