Kevin Correia was dealing against Houston before a costly error was taken advantage of by the Astros in the eventual loss, which sailed the Pirates to three games below .500 and their fifth straight.
Correia retired four straight before Jed Lowrie singled into shallow center field to lead off the seventh inning. Matt Dominguez hit a grounder to short, which would have been a routine double play, but Clint Barmes kicked the ball into the outfield for an error to put two runners on and no outs. The error proved to be costly after Jason Castro took advantage of a 2-1 changeup left over the plate and launched a three-run homer to right field.
The home run spoiled an impressive outing for Correia. The right-hander tied a career-high nine strikeouts over his six-plus frames. It was the first time since July 18, 2010 that he punched out nine batters and just the third time in his career. Correia’s previous season-high was six this year. He tied that mark by the fourth inning.
The only other run that Correia allowed before the homer came in the first inning. Scott Moore ripped a double off the wall in left field and advanced to third on the wild pitch from Correia. The runner scored after Brett Wallace took a 3-1 pitch for a RBI single to center field.
Overall, Correia was charged with four runs (three earned) on seven hits over six-plus innings. He walked one and struck out nine while throwing 97 pitches, 60 for strikes.
Despite being demoted to the bullpen when the club acquired Wandy Rodriguez at the trade deadline, Correia has been one of their best and most consistent starters recently. Correia is coming off a two-hit seven inning shutout his last trip to the mound in Chicago where he tied his then season-high six whiffs. He’s posted a 2.52 ERA in the month of September, which is his best mark since April (2.42). Not known for being a strikeout pitcher, Correia has already racked up 18 over four starts this season, which already has combined to tie the most since whiffing 18 over six starts in July.
McPherson Will Remain in the Rotation, Karstens in the ‘Pen
Manager Clint Hurdle announced the rotation for the upcoming series in New York starting on Monday. The skipper decided to leave rookie Kyle McPherson in, keeping Jeff Karstens in the bullpen for length.
Karstens tossed a three-inning one-run relief appearance on Wednesday, proving that he was healthy from the hip flexor injury that he re-aggrevated in the first inning of the start, which forced the club to dive into the bullpen. But Hurdle said they wanted to get more looks at McPherson.
McPherson made his first big league start on Wednesday, allowing two runs over 4.1 innings. He’s sported a 2.25 ERA over a combined 16 frames in the Majors since making his Pirates debut in San Diego.
“We’ll look for more opportunities and we’ll continue to look at the schedule and keep our temperature on the guys that are pitching and see what might break for Jeff,” Hurdle said. “He’s helped a lot in the last two years, and he wants to help more…We want to look at Kyle.”
The rotation against the Mets is as follows: McPherson Monday, Wandy Rodriguez Tuesday, Jeff Locke Wednesday, Correia Thursday.
Pirates Continue to Show Off the Long Ball
The Pirates offense has only scored two runs in their back-to-back loses against Houston. Both those runs have come from the long ball. Garrett Jones showed off his lumber with a solo-shot in the eighth inning last night for his 24th of the season. Gaby Sanchez scored the lone run by Pittsburgh on Saturday connecting on an 0-1 changeup in the second inning. It marked his seventh of the season and fourth as a Pirate.
Lack of power was something the 2011 team struggled with. But not this season.
The Pirates have homered 15 times in their last 12 games. Pittsburgh ranks fourth in the National League with 161 home runs hit this season. They ranked 27th in all of baseball with 107 last year. Those 161 are the most hit by the club since 2003 (163). The 99 home runs hit on the road also marks the second-highest total in team history behind the 1966 club (110).
“It’s interesting isn’t it?,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “I can remember answering the questions here last year, where was the power? I was the one guy here saying, ‘there’s power here, it just hasn’t been plugged in.’ I think we found more usable power this year. The guys that have gotten the play, to a greater degree.”
“They’re a safety net. Teams that can hammer the ball out of the ballpark, you seen the Yankees do it throughout the season this year. It gives you a bit of a safety net to play with from time to time…To have power is a plus. I think that’s something we will look to keep engaged.”
And what’s more? If Garrett Jones can hit one more homer before the regular season ends on October 3rd, the Pirates could make history. For the first time since 1966 they would have three players with 25 or more home runs in a single season. The last came with Willie Stargell (33), Roberto Clemente (29) and Donn Clendenon (28). This year Andrew McCutchen has 30, Pedro Alvarez has 29 and Jones is just one shy at 24.