Pittsburgh scored five late runs to surge ahead of the struggling Houston Astros, winning 7-3 and moving to one game over .500 this late in the season since 1999.
The Pirates and Astros traded one run innings and stranded many runners early in the game. Pittsbrugh struck in the top of the first off of J.A. Happ. Andrew McCutchen walked and he was tripled home by Neil Walker. Houston went to work with two outs in the bottom of the first off of Charlie Morton. Singles Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee and a walk to Brett Wallace loaded the bases. But Morton retired Chris Johnson on a ground ball to end the inning.
Walker was again in on the scoring in the third. Matt Diaz doubled and Walker delivered another two out knock to bring him in and make it 2-0. Morton ran into more trouble in the home half of the third. Michael Bourn singled to lead off. Jeff Keppinger also singled. Morton struck out Pence and Lee and looked poised to get out of the inning. But Wallace singled, scoring Bourn and cutting the lead to a run. Brandon Wood’s error on a ball from Johnson loaded the bases. But Morton induced a ground ball force play out of Clint Barmes to end it.
Morton was hurt by a walk in the fourth. He gave one up to J.R. Towles to lead off the inning. Happ bunted him to second and Bourn’s single made it 2-2. The Pirates left the bases full in the top of the fifth. McCutchen doubled. Walker was given an intentional walk. Brandon Wood also walked with two outs. But Michael McKenry was retired to cease the activity.
Houston pushed ahead in the bottom of the fifth. Brett Wallace singled and Chris Johnson reached on a fielder’s choice out. Clint Barmes delivered a two out double that plated Johnson and gave Houston a 3-2 lead.
That lead didn’t last long. Clint Hurdle made the right moves in the top of the sixth. Enerio Del Rosario replaced Happ on the hill. Xavier Paul pinch hit for Morton with one out and he doubled. Jose Tabata followed with a single. Garrett Jones pinch hit for Matt Diaz and singled. That scored Paul and tied it up at three runs each. Brett Wallace fielded a grounder to first from McCutchen but then threw wildly to home trying to nail Tabata. Jones wound up on third and Tabata was safe with the go ahead run. Walker’s sac fly made it 5-3 Buccos.
Paul remained in the game and came up big in the next inning. Michael McKenry singled and Paul hit his second career dinger with two outs off of Fernando Rodriguez to give the Pirates a four run cushion.
Houston continued to battle. They left two men on in the sixth and the eighth. Chris Resop was summoned for the ninth, but also ran into trouble. He got one out but gave up a walk and a single and was pulled for Joel Hanrahan. He got a fielder’s choice ground out and a strike out to end the game.
Morton picked up his seventh win. He went five innings and gave up eight hits and three runs. He struck out three and walked two. Happ got a no decision in five innings. He surrendered two runs on six hits and four walks. He whiffed seven. Del Rosario was pegged with the loss. Hanrahan earned his 19th save.
The offense had 14 hits, including six for extra bases.
Paul had three hits off the bench. Walker drove in three.
McKenry collected his first two Big League hits.
Daniel McCutchen tossed three innings of scoreless relief.
Brandon Wood and Lyle Overbay were both 0-4 with three whiffs.
The team struck out eleven times.
Morton is 2-3 against Houston, with both wins coming this year. He has seven wins in thirteen starts in 2011 after winning seven times in 35 starts in 2009 and 2010 combined.
Happ is now 2-3 against Pittsburgh.
This was the fourth time in 2011 that Walker has driven in at least three runs.
Pittsburgh had just seven extra base hits in the last seven games. They had scored just eight runs in the previous six games.
McCutchen extended his hitting streak.
This was the third time in his career that Paul collected three hits in a game.
Pirate catchers came into the game hitting just 1-29 since Chris Snyder was disabled.
Bucs have won three straight for the first time in June and have won four of five.