Erik Bedard got the first two outs routinely, then Cutch doubled of the Clemente Wall and Gaby banged a two bagger off the left field fence to give the Bucs the lead, with neither Astro outfielder making much effort to track the balls. It could have been more, but Russell Martin's laser was straight at 1B Pena; Bedard has been up with all of his pitches.
The bottom of the Astro order went down quietly in the second, as did the 6-7-8 hitters for Pittsburgh as Bedard did a better job of getting the ball down. AJ lost Grossman to open the third. Crowe hit a roller to SS too weakly to turn two, but Altuve banged one a little more crisply for a 6-4-3 DP. The Bucs only runner was Starling Marte, who took a hook off the foot on an 0-2 count.
The fourth was uneventful; Pena drew a two out walk and the Bucs wasted a Martin bloop single. The 'Stros tied it without a ball leaving the infield in the fifth.
Marwin Gonzalez hit a broken bat roller to second; both Gaby and AJ covered first, and Gonzalez got the hit when the throw went between them. After a bunt and ground out moved him to third, Crowe walked and Altuve chopped a ball up the line; Inge smothered it in mid hop, but it rolled far enough past him to allow the run to plate; the Pirates did more to create that run than did Houston. Jordy Mercer opened with an infield knock. Clint Hurdle, who bunts in his sleep, had AJ swing away, and the 4-6-3 DP emptied the sacks and after a Marte fly to right, it was 1-1 after an hour and 45 minutes of baseball.
AJ has been gutting it out tonight without having great command. He gave up a leadoff knock to Chris Carter. An out later, he coaxed a 6-4-3 DP from Matt Dominguez to end the frame at 90 pitches. The Bucs set themselves up for a big frame when JT bunted for a hit and went to third on Cutch's double to the left field corner. But Gaby popped out on a high riser, and Martin hit a one-hopper to third to catch Tabata, off on contact, at the plate. Inge to the rescue; he sat on a Bedard hook and lined it into LC to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 edge.
Burnett tossed a clean seventh, highlighting by a strikeout of Jimmy Paredes, who swung and missed at a hook that hit him in the ankle; tough series for him so far. Bedard was done; this was his longest outing of the year, and Edgar Gonzalez took the ball. He got Mercer on a fly, and Bo Porter went to LHP Wesley Wright to face Garrett Jones; he hit him.
Then Porter went to righty Jose Cisnero; no wonder Astro games take forever to play. Marte singled to center to put Bucs on first and second. Travis Snider pinch hit and bounced one up the line, but Pena was playing back, made the backhand stop and got the out. Cutch was intentionally walked, and Gaby Sanchez inexplicably went down looking at a 3-2 fastball; the Bucs just refuse to make it easy on themselves.
AJ went seven, giving up a run on five hits, four walks and seven K, tossing 100 pitches. The Back End Boys are on, with Mark Melancon taking the bump. Crowe greeted him with a single up the middle, the third leadoff Astro in four frames to reach. It cost this time.
Altuve hit a seeing eye chopper up the middle, just past Melancon's glove as it went past the mound and barely beyond a diving Mercer over the second base bag. Castro hit a DP ball to Gaby; it fell out of his glove and he had to take a force. Carter got ahead 2-0, got an elevated cutter and dropped it into left center to tie the game. The Bucs finally got a grounder they could do something with from Pena, getting a 6-4-3 DP, but it was a new contest. The Bucs got a one out hit from Inge, but Cisnero K'ed Walker and Mercer swinging to bring it to the ninth.
Jason Grilli tossed a clean frame; Porter batted Cisneros, so he wants another inning out of him. Wise decision; he put the Pirates away in order. Bryan Morris worked the tenth. He walked Grossman on a borderline 3-2 call, but then cleaned up with a K and 1-6-3 DP. Cinseros tucked the Bucs away 1-2-3 again.
Morris gave up a leadoff double to Castro that hit high off the wall at the 399' mark. After an out, Pena was walked intentionally. That backfired when a wild pitch moved the runners up a station. With the infield in, a weakly hit ball to Walker came home; CB Bucknor ruled the runner safe, igniting Martin and eventually getting Hurdle tossed. The throw was late and it looked like Castro's foot got through Martin to the plate, so it was likely the right call. Another run came in on a two out PH knock by JD Marinez, and it was 4-2 Houston. Jose Veras tossed a clean frame, and the Astros had their twelfth win.
The Bucs have been outplayed both games; they got lucky last night. The Pirates had plays on the field they didn't make and threw away at-bats. They were the worse team tonight.
Jeff Locke faces Lucas Harrell in the series finale tomorrow afternoon.
- Tonight's run was the first Mark Melancon has surrendered since April 14
- AJ Burnett has gone seven innings in his last four starts.
- The Bucs drew 32,925 tonight.
- Justin Wilson, who got yesterday's win, and Tony Watson were off tonight after working last night; Vin Mazzaro may be on a short leash, too. The Pirates don't have any southpaws left in the pen available for the game.
- The Astros have a healthy Pittsburgh contingent on their roster - Erik Bedard, Jose Veras, Robbie Grossman and Ronny Cedeno all have Steel City connections.
- Jeff Karstens began his rehab assignment at Altoona tonight. He went four innings, giving up a pair of unearned runs on two hits, two walks and four K while tossing 62 pitches. Chase d'Arnaud will join him there shortly.
- Mike Newman of Fangraphs took a look at West Virginia righty Clayton Holmes.
- LHP St. Mary's Joe Beimel has inked a minor-league deal with Braves. He's coming off a year's recovery from TJ surgery