Paul Maholm was solid again, but was almost done in by some unsteady defense. He went six and gave up just one earned run as Pittsburgh moved three games over the .500 mark.
Maholm looked ragged early on. Houston used a pair of singles – one from Jeff Keppinger and one from Hunter Pence – plus a sac fly from Carlos Lee to take an early 1-0 lead in the first.
Pittsburgh tied it in the second off of Astros starter Brett Myers. Lyle Overbay, Josh Harrison and Michael McKenry hit consecutive one out singles to tie it up. Alex Presley singled to right with two away but Harrison was thrown out at the plate to end the inning and bloody his nose as Carlos Corporan effectively blocked home. Harrison would leave the game in the top of the fourth.
Houston got two the ugly way in the top of the third. Keppinger singled with one away. Harrison’s miscue on a Pence batted ball left all runners safe. Lee singled to make it 2-1. With two gone, Harrison threw wildly on a ball from Matt Downs, allowing Pence to score. Downs moved to second on the play after Overbay threw wildly. Maholm intentionally walked Clint Barmes to load the bases and got Corporan on a ground ball.
Pittsurgh was able to tie it up immediately. Chase D’Arnaud and Andrew McCutchen doubled to make it 3-2. Overbay came through with a two out single to score McCutchen and knot it up.
Pittsburgh took the lead in the fifth. D’Arnaud and Garrett Jones both singled. Neil Walker singled to knock in D’Arnaud with the go ahead run. Overbay grounded into an inning ending double play to end the threat.
Maholm almost used that run up in the top of the sixth. Downs singled and Barmes walked. Corporan laid down a successful sac bunt to put runners on second and third. Myers was allowed to hit for himself and, with the infield drawn in, D’Arnaud came home on a bouncer hit right to him. McKenry tagged out downs. Maholm then whiffed Michael Bourn to end the inning.
Pittsburgh tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth. Brandon Wood – in the game in place of Harrison – reached on an error from Downs. With two away, Presley singled him in, giving Pittsburgh a 5-3 lead.
Daniel McCutchen relieved Maholm to start the seventh. He stranded Hunter Pence, who had doubled with one out, a third base. Jose Veras pitched a perfect eighth and Joel Hanrahan did likewise in the ninth.
Maholm allowed three runs – just one earned – in six innings. He gave up five singles and three walks. He struck out three. Myers was the loser. He surrendered five runs (four earned) in six innings. The Pirates tagged him for 13 hits. He struck out only one and walked no one. Hanrahan has 25 saves in as many opportunities.
Bucs are three games over .500!
Presley had three hits. D’Arnaud, Jones, Walker and Overbay each had two hits.
Maholm was good again.
Three errors. Although it is possible that Harrison’s miscues were caused by the collision that eventually forced him from the game.
I’m trying to temper my expectations of Alex Presley. Chad Hermansen had a pair of three hit games in the same week in late September of 1999. Presley nearly turned a single into a double in the first, but overslid the bag and was tagged out. I say keep running aggressively.
Bucs have sold out four straight games with the help of Red Sox Nation and the Fourth of July. Hopefully the crowd will return tomorrow.
Maholm is 11-6 against Houston in his career. Myers falls to 6-5 against Pittsburgh.