With the series win over Houston on Wednesday, Pittsburgh notched their 72nd win of the season. It tied their win total from all of last year. The Pirates finished the 2011 campaign with a 72-90 record.
“It’s part of what you expect,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “You do, you expect to get better. It’s not always the way it works. I use the term with my players, I’m going to be easy to please, but hard to satisfy. It’s somewhat pleasing, but it doesn’t give you satisfaction. ”
“For some, I think it is a sign of tangible evidence that we’re getting better and that were in the right direction.”
The Pirates were able to pick up the victory due to six runs off the Astros arms and a solid spot start from Kevin Correia.
“I thought it was a very efficient offense tonight,” Hurdle said. “We were able to score some runs some different ways. The guys gave us some good at-bats…We were able to manufacture some things…Scoring runners. Holt did a fine job, contact play. The first ground ball, the sac fly, a squeeze bunt, all of them came into play. And all of them counted.”
Clint Barmes, who was bumped to the second spot in the order on Wednesday, connected for a one-out single to left field in the bottom of the first. After Andrew McCutchen walked, Garrett Jones ripped a single to right to drive in the first run of the inning. Gaby Sanchez followed with an RBI knock of his own to plate McCutchen in the two-run frame.
The Pirates took advantage of an error by the Astros in the second frame. Alex Presley hit a grounder to first base, but Brett Wallace bobbled the ball allowing Presley to reach. He than advanced to second on the sac bunt from Kevin Correia, then third on a wild pitch. Brock Holt hit an infield RBI single to drive him home.
A two-run fourth inning extended the Pirates lead to four runs. Birthday boy Rod Barajas singled, then scored from first base on the RBI triple from Presley. Barajas scored from first after Presley launched the ball off the wall in center field.
“I try and do what I can,” Barajas said. “I’m not blessed with much speed. He hit that ball, and I knew he hit it well. I was going to try to get out there as far as I could. Once I saw him getting close to that wall and full out, I thought, let me take a chance. I’m just going to go…I thought that it was a gamble that I was willing to take and fortunately for us, it got over his head and I was able to score easily.”
“Alex can play, Alex can hit,” Hurdle said. “It’s finding that consistent rhythm. There’s been some challenges with that. His playing time is one of them. But again, up here, you’ve got to earn your way. You’ve got to find your way. And for him to come in tonight, that was a shot in the arm. Shot in the arm for him. Drive the ball to center field, add another single, score three runs down in that eight hole. Very nice evening.”
The club picked up their sixth and final run on a beautifully executed suicide squeeze play in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Presley on third, Clint Barmes dropped down the perfect sac bunt as Presley sprinted in safely.
Correia Solid in Spot Start; Undetermined if Remains in Rotation
Kevin Correia got the nod on Wednesday against the Astros in place of Jeff Karstens, who is currently sidelined due to a hip injury. Correia has bounced around in the role of spot starter and relief in the bullpen since the club acquired Wandy Rodriguez at the trade deadline.
Tonight, Correia held Houston to just one run on four hits over six frames. He walked one and struck out one while needing just 67 pitches to do so.
“They threw a lot of lefties out there tonight,” Correia said. “I was able to keep the ball in on them. It’s an aggressive young team right now and you can’t really leave balls out over the plate or else they’re going to hurt you.”
The only trouble that Correia worked himself in to came in the fourth when he allowed the lone run.
Jimmy Paredes led off the frame with a double and his next batter drew a free pass. After notching his only strikeout of the outing, a second hit of the inning drove in the Astros’ first and only run off Correia. The right-hander gave up a bloop single to right to load the bases. But a huge double play allowed him to get out unscathed. Carlos Corporan hit a chopper to first base. Gaby Sanchez made the throw home to get the force out, then Rod Barajas made the quick throw back to the first base bag to end the inning.
“I wasn’t surprised. I was kind of looking for it,” Barajas said. “The ball wasn’t hit that hard, so I was expecting to get one out. I caught the ball and I looked at first base and I saw Corporan turning towards me, he was looking home. I just decided to take a chance and see what happens.”
“The biggest play of the night was the 3-2-3 double play,” Hurdle said. “Perfect timing for it. I didn’t have that…That really gave us a nice stop and we were able to create some offense coming back in. That provided some separation. Kevin gave us the professional outing that we needed.”
Hurdle said after the game he wasn’t sure if Correia will remain in the rotation, or if Karstens will need another skipped start in the rotation.
“I haven’t given it any thought right now. I just wanted to watch him pitch,” Hurdle said.
“I understand the kind of role that I’ve been in. I haven’t been out there throwing 100 pitches very often,” Correia said. “It’s not a new role. It’s been a while since I’ve done this sort of role. It’s just a matter of getting used to not knowing when you’re going to throw again. Kind of seeing how that’s going to affect you so you can make adjustments. I haven’t had too many outings, except for maybe the first one that I had out of the pen where I wasn’t really sure what I was going to feel out there”
Walker Has Setback in Cage, But Is Close to Return
Neil Walker continues to progress back from low back tightness, which has forced him to miss the past nine games. Today was the first day that Walker has been able to field and take grounders at second base. He said he pretty much went through the same routine as the team, except for hitting. Walker stretched with the club and played catch. The biggest step for Walker will be hitting.
“Right now I’m trying to keep it straight up and down and playing catch as far as my rotation stuff goes,” Walker said. “I’m gong to try and ease into swinging here in the next few days. These next couple days are going to be big for me. It will be good for me as far as my legs to move around and make sure I’m taxing them as much as I can to the right degree. Come in tomorrow and get some work in. We’ll see how it goes. The last two days have been very good.”
“It’s more feeling of a little bit of tightness and some limitation. The last couple days have really pushed the envelope a little more in terms of throwing and movement, left and right and doing some things to see how far I can go. My body has responded very well…It hasn’t bothered me doing a ton of daily activities. I certainly don’t want to go out there and take some cuts at 95 MPH fastballs when I’m not ready.”
Hurdle previously said that Walker could return to game action this weekend, but said they were going to have to put that on pause due to a setback in the cage.
“We tried it once and we backed away,” Hurdle said.
“I just can’t put any kind of day on it,” Walker said. “Fortunately with the situation with the September [callups], with the rosters expanding, it’s not a thing where I have to deal with a 15-day DL or anything like that. As much as I want to be in the lineup yesterday, I have to listen to my body. But I’m close. I just can’t put a day on it.”
“Just being an everyday player and playing the whole year in a more magnified part of the season, something like this hindering you for a while [it’s frustrating]. It’s not been good for me mentally, but fortunately we have a good group of guys here that have been able to keep everybody up, trying to keep it on a high note, get back as soon as I’m capable.”
Marte, Snider Injury Updates
— Starling Marte (right oblique) had his rehab assignment transferred to Triple-A Indianapolis today, and went 1-for-3 with a run scored in the Indians first game of the playoffs. The rookie had better results at the plate tonight than he did the night prior. Marte went 0-for-5 as the designated hitter with State College on Tuesday.
“He didn’t miss a turn at the plate,” Hurdle said. “Three strikeouts, a little rusty swinging the bat. We saw that, and probably knew that going in.”
“We’ll see if that playoff atmosphere and maybe getting to see 15, 16 pitches can help him to be in a better position, as far as his swing today. We’re taking it one day at a time. We’re anticipating getting him another game right off the bat. He needs to get some at-bats. Five in State College really doesn’t ring my bell a whole lot.”
— Travis Snider (right hamstring) said that he felt sore today. The outfielder felt the discomfort when he was running to first base on the hit in the bottom of the first inning in Tuesday’s game. He came out of the game after feeling it running home on the McCutchen double. He said that he’s hoping with today off and the team day off tomorrow, can get back soon.
“Snider’s out for a few days,” Hurdle said.