Pittsburgh rallied for three runs in the sixth inning. But aggressive base running and a costly error helped Houston score three times in the eighth to win it. In the process, the Pirates fell out of first place.
The Astros drew first blood against Paul Maholm. Carlos Lee led off the second inning with a double. Jason Michaels singled him to third. A passed ball by Michael McKenry allowed Lee to score the first run of the game. Houston added it to it in the next frame. Jeff Keppinger homered after Angel Sanchez walked to make it 3-0 Astros.
Bud Norris kept the Pirates off the board until the fifth inning when Neil Walker homered with no one on to cut the lead to two runs. Pittsburgh took the lead and sent Norris packing with a three runs sixth. Lyle Overbay and Brandon Wood hit consecutive dingers to start the inning and tie the score. McKenry followed with a double. But Maholm’s sac bunt attempt was a pop up and Alex Presley struck out. Chase D’Arnaud singled to keep the rally alive and finish Norris. Wilton Lopez entered and gave up a single to Walker to put the Pirates up 4-3.
Maholm was pulled after five innings. Both Daniel McCutchen and Chris Resop threw scoreless innings. Jose Veras was called on for the eighth and things got messy. Hunter Pence walked and moved to second on a grounder by Lee. Pence swiped third and scored on a fielder’s choice grounder to D’Arnaud off the bat of Brett Wallace. D’Arnaud went home and the close play at the plate went Houston’s way. Clint Hurdle argued and as all arguments go, to no avail. THe game was tied. Clint Barmes grounder to Wood at third was mishandled and pinch runner Brian Bogusevic (in for Wallace) was on third with Barmes on first with only one out. Humberto Quintero’s line drive single scored the go ahead run and Michael Bourn would single one out later to make it 6-4 Houston.
That’s how it would stay as Mark Melancon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to end it.
Maholm gave up three runs in five innings. Houston got to him for nine hits and he walked one. Maholm struck out three. Norris lasted 5-2/3 and was charged with five runs. He also gave up nine hits. He struck out five and walked two. Sergio Escalona was the winner in relief for striking out two in a perfect eighth. Veras was charged with the loss.
Walker had four hits and McKenry had three.
Losing a late lead with a costly error.
Pittsburgh left ten men on base and were just 2-10 with runners in scoring position.
Maholm remains 11-6 versus Houston. Norris is still 3-4 against Pittsburgh.
Walker’s four hits established a season high and is his third game with four or more hits. He has a ten game hitting streak.
McKenry’s three knocks are a career high for him.
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