Maybe the Astros clubhouse was filled with the sounds of Milli Vanilli’s ‘Blame it on the Rain’ after this one ended. If the scoreboard operators in Pittsburgh are anything like most scoreboard operators, they were playing rain themed songs (‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ by CCR, ‘Laughter in the Rain’ by Neil Sedaka, ‘Rain’ by the Beatles, ‘Rainin’ Men’ by the Weather Girls, ad nauseum) during the nearly hour long rain event that delayed the start of the game. Rain was present throughout the game, too. In the end, the warning track was puddling and the basepaths were a soggy mess.
And in the end, James McDonald picked up his ninth win with 7-1/3 innings of three hit ball. The offense got him just enough and Derrek Lee continued to provide a boost with the bat.
Pittsburgh had a chance to take the lead in the second. Neil Walker walked with one out. Ryan Doumit doubled him to third. Josh Harrison’s grounder was to the hole side of third baseman Jimmy Paredes. He made the stop but Walker ran and Paredes gunned him down at home after a brief game of pickle.
Houston went up in the third. Starting pitcher Henry Sosa was walked. With two outs Jose Altuve’s drive to right field was misplayed by Jose Tabata. The ball bounced off his glove on the warning track and went for at triple, bringing in Sosa.
The Pirates put up a pair of tallies in the fifth to take control. Andrew McCutchen reached on an infield single to start the inning. Lee was hit by a pitch. Doumit doubled into the left-center gap to score McCutchen. Josh Harrison singled on a line drive to center and the Pirates led 2-0.
Houston’s had a couple of other chances to score. But failed. In the sixth Jordan Schafer singled leading off the inning. He moved up on a sac bunt from Altuve. A wild pitch pushed him to third. But Walker fielded a ball off the bat of J.D. Martinez and threw home to Doumit to lay the tag on Schafer.
Houston got a pair of walks from McDonald in the eighth. The second one went to Schafer with one out and caused McDonald’s day to end. Jason Grilli entered and doused the fire. Altuve hit into a force play and Martinez struck out looking.
Lee hit a solo homer in the eighth against Wilton Lopez to give the Pirates a two run cushion. They almost needed it. Joel Hanrahan came in for the ninth. He walked Carlos Lee to start things off. One out later Paredes singled. Matt Downs blooper fell in just over the head of Walker. That would’ve loaded the bases, but Jimmy Paredes rounded second too far only to see pinch runner Chris Johnson being held at third. Walker threw to Ronny Cedeno covering second and he ran down Paredes for the second out. Hanrahan retired J.B. Shuck on a fly ball to end it.
McDonald whiffed six and gave up just three hits in 7-1/3. He walked three and dropped his ERA on the season to 3.98. Sosa pitched well, but not well enough. He was charged with two runs in six innings. He allowed six hits and two walks. He also whiffed two. Hanrahan picked up the save.
McDonald was excellent. Hopefully he can get to double figures in wins this year.
Lee scored twice and homered.
Doumit had three hits, including two doubles. Harrison singled twice.
Just seven hits for the offense.
Hanrahan was shaky in the ninth.
McDonald came into the game with a 1-1 record against Houston. Both decisions came in 2011. Sosa seemingly beat the Pirates yesterday, but it was August 30th and it was his second career win.
I hereby declare Derrek Lee to be ‘the man’!
McDonald’s 7-1/3 innings represent his longest outing of the year. In his previous 23 starts he had gone 8-5 with an ERA of just 3.26. His first four starts were somewhat yucky – only once did he pitch past the fifth inning and his ERA was over 10.00.
Tabata whiffed to end the third inning and did not come out to the field in the fourth, being replaced by Garrett Jones. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the issue was an on-going, nagging wrist issue.
Hanrahan’s save was his 35th. That moves him past Jim Gott and into third place all-time on the Pirates single season save list. He trails Mike Williams (46 in 2002) and Jose Mesa (43 in 2004). Kent Tekulve is the only Pirate pitcher with two seasons of at least 30 saves.
Assuming Neil Walker can drive in one more run this year, it’ll be the first time since 2008 that Pittsburgh will have two players with 80 or more RBI. Back in 2008 Nate McLouth and Adam LaRoche did it.
As Bill James has noted, baseball is littered with names that sound as if they could come out of a Charles Dickens tale. The Astros have a good one – J.B. Shuck.