The Pirates had a problem in Houston, and it seemed as though they were underdogs the whole night, but the ninth inning changed that in a dramatic victory.
The Astros started off the scoring in the second inning as Ben Francisco singled to center plating J.D. Martinez. Things would worsen though.
Pitcher Jordan Lyles bunted, however the play was a suicide squeeze. The runner Justin Maxwell narrowly avoided the tag from catcher Michael McKenry and then narrowly beat him to the plate to make it a 2-0 lead.
The Astros would then add to their lead when third baseman Chris Johnson hit his eighth homer of the season off Pirates starter Jeff Karstens.
The Pirates scored their first run of the game in the top of the fourth inning when Alex Presley connected with a Lyles pitch, and hit it over the right field wall, his seventh homer of the season.
The Astros would get the run back when Ben Francisco hit a ball that barely entered the left field seats. The play was reviewed and upheld meaning the Astros had a 4-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Pedro Alvarez started the inning with a single to right field. The next batter, McKenry homered, his ninth of the season. McKenry has now homered in two consecutive starts.
The Pirates had their opportunities in the sixth inning as a poor outfield throw from Maxwell allowed Presley to go from first base to third while Garrett Jones stretched a single and advanced to second base. Neil Walker hit a ball that Johnson fielded. He was unable to tag Presley on third but got the out at first. Alvarez struck out and the opportunity was wasted.
McKenry came up big in the top of the seventh inning with a double and would score on a Josh Harrison pinch hit sacrifice fly to tie things up at four.
Chris Resop had pitched a scoreless sixth inning and Jared Hughes came into the seventh inning. The first batter, Johnson, hit a triple aided by Andrew McCutchen’s troubles to field the ball because of the hill would haunt the Pirates two batters later after Martinez hit a single that passed the shifting infield.
In the bottom of the eighth, McCutchen was able to get to third base despite an interesting strategy to have reliever Wesley Wright start the inning and then play right field for a batter so the Astros could bring in a right-handed pitcher to face a same sided batter and then bring Wright back in for Garrett Jones. Still the Pirates put up a zero in the inning.
Tony Watson set the Astros down in order including a strikeout of Johnson who was bidding for the cycle.
Wesley Wright was able to get Alvarez to strikeout to open the top of the ninth inning. Rhiner Cruz then came in for the save and McKenry greeted him with a single. Drew Sutton then pinch hit and worked a walk. Casey McGehee then pinch hit, as Cruz struggled with his control. A patient McGehee also walked to load the basesand force a pitching change in lefty Xavier Cedeno.
Starling Marte came up to the plate with the game on the line, and hit a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at 5.
The next batter Rod Barajas also pinch hit as Manager Clint Hurdle emptied his bench. Cedeno threw a ball that deflected off Chris Snyder and Sutton was able to slide in safe and give the Pirates a 6-5 advantage, their first lead of the game.
After a Barajas pop out, it was on to the bottom of the ninth inning. Joel Hanrahan came in, and got two strikeouts while allowing a runner to reach scoring position. A foulout to Pedro Alvarez ended the game and gave the Pirates the comeback win.
Winning Pitcher: Tony Watson (5-1)
Losing Pitcher: Rhiner Cruz (1-1)
Save: Joel Hanrahan (31)
MVP: Michael McKenry 3-4 HR, 2 RBI
LVP: Neil Walker 0-4 1 K, multiple rallies killed
Play of the Game: Pirates 9th inning. Forget a play, that inning was huge for the Pirates
Home Runs: McKenry (9), Presley (7), Johnson (8), Francisco (1)
Up Next: Saturday, July 28 at Houston Astros at 7:05 p.m. EDT
Probable Starters: Wandy Rodriguez (7-9 3.79 ERA, Pirates debut) vs. Armando Gallaraga (3-2 4.12 ERA Minor League numbers)