There is a reason why the roster consists of 25 men, and why it takes everyone to pull out a win. The Pittsburgh Pirates proved that to be true on Friday night in Houston.
The Pirates tied the game up at four in the seventh inning with a pinch-hit sac fly from Josh Harrison. After that the club lost their lead after Jared Hughes — who had a 9.0 inning scoreless streak when he took the mound, while leading rookies in ERA — gave up the go-ahead run after a leadoff triple and a one-out single.
Both teams put up zeros in the eighth inning and the Pirates headed to the top of the ninth trailing by one. Michael McKenry connected for a one-out single and was followed by back-to-back pinch hit walks from Drew Sutton and Casey McGehee. Rookie Starling Marte, who had an impressive Major League debut on Thursday night, picked up his second career RBI with a sac fly to center field that was just shy of a grand slam. Both runners tagged up on the deep fly out to push both into scoring position.
While Rod Barajas was at the plate, a wild pitch from the Astros reliever Xavier Cedeno allowed Sutton to slide into home plate safe for the go-ahead run. The run proved to be huge as Barajas popped out to end the inning.
Joel Hanrahan closed out the game to nail his National League leading 31th save as the Pirates clawed their way back for their 29th comeback win of the season.
“That’s what it takes,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’re out to make history, not endure history. It takes that. It takes everybody putting something in everyday, somebody different. Everybody knowing that they’ve got purpose and they’ve got value and there’s going to be a spot for them. They’ve got to stay ready for that spot to open up in the game and then go out. We’ve got confidence to get them engaged and involved and have that confidence to go out and play.”
Karstens Struggles Against the Astros
During Jeff Karstens’ last two starts in Houston last season, the right-hander did not allow a run over a combined 15.2 innings of work. But on Friday night this season, Karstens struggled for the Pirates after coming off a seven inning scoreless performance his last trip to the mound against Miami.
After tossing a scoreless first inning, the Astros tacked runs off the right-hander in each of the next three frames.
Karstens allowed three straight singles to start the third inning. The last knock from Ben Francisco drove in a run off the right-hander. Karstens struck out his next batter before the Astros were able to plate a second run. Jordan Lyles dropped down a sac bunt up the first base line, which allowed Justin Maxwell to score. Catcher Michael McKenry attempted to tag out the runner at home, but Maxwell ran out of the baseline to miss the tag and touched home plate. The right-hander retired his next two batters to escape the frame, but threw 22 pitches in the lengthy inning.
The right-hander allowed a third run in the next frame, a solo-shot to left field to lead off the inning.
For the third straight inning, Karstens gave up a run to the Astros. Francisco took an 0-2 curveball to left field for a leadoff long ball. It marked the second home run that Karstens allowed of the outing.
Karstens tossed just five innings allowing four runs on six hits. He walked three, but despite the rough start, tied his season high with seven strikeouts.
McKenry Continues to Hit
Michael McKenry came up big at the plate for the Pirates and has been making the most of his opportunities when inserted into the lineup. McKenry entered game action going 18-for-50 (.360) with 5 doubles, 5 HR and 14 RBI over his last 16 games.
McKenry picked up three hits on the night and drove in a pair. He also connected for his ninth long ball of the season. McKenry also homered in his last start on Wednesday.
“Just let the air out,” McKenry said of his adjustments. “I think when I first got here, I tried to do too much. Tried to be a hero so to speak. Just keep it simple and have fun. Just try to enjoy it and have fun. Trust all your work, trust all your preparation. I feel like everybody on the teams trying to do that.”