Apparently all the Astros needed today was the loss of Pirates killer Chris Johnson and James McDonald to avoid the four game sweep.
The Astros capitalized on McDonald’s ineffectiveness in a victory.
The damage started in the bottom of the third inning when a J.D. Martinez sacrifice fly plated Jose Altuve to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. This was aided by a McDonald walk and a misplay by starting shortstop Jordy Mercer that allowed both runners to advance an extra base.
McDonald even at this point was not pitching well, but looked to get a reprieve when Garrett Jones hit an upper deck homer to score both himself and Neil Walker, to give the Pirates a lead.
The reprieve only lasted half an inning as McDonald served one up to Jordan Schafer, the eighth hitter in the Astros lineup as Chris Snyder also scored putting the Astros back on top.
The Astros continued to score in the bottom of the fifth inning as a Scott Moore single scored Martinez and a ground out by Schafer allowed Steve Pearce to cross home.
This would be the last inning McDonald pitched. He threw 110 pitches in his outing and struggled to find the strike zone in addition to receiving multiple visits from Pitching Coach Ray Searage.
The Pirates could not get anything going offensively. They loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but with two outs pinch hitter Andrew McCutchen popped out to right field, ending the threat.
Kevin Correia entered the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, his first appearance since he was demoted to the bullpen. Correia got two out of the first three batters he faced out however, a Moore single plated Marwin Gonzalez to extend the Astros lead to 6-2.
The Pirates scored in the seventh inning when a Walker double scored new shortstop Josh Harrison.
Correia’s seventh inning started similarly to his sixth, as he retired two of the first three batters he faced, however a single, walk and a Gonzalez double followed and the last hit cleared the bases and gave the Astros a 9-3 lead.
The Pirates failed to score in the top of the eighth inning, and Jared Hughes was able to keep the Astros off the board as well.
The Pirates were able to get something going putting runners on the corners. Harrison would score on a Chuckie Fick wild pitch. Presley then legged out an infield single that knocked Fick out of the game. Xavier Cedeno then came in, and Walker hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Marte. Cedeno then retired Jones before a third pitching change in the inning. The pitcher Wilton Lopez struck out Casey McGehee in three pitches to end the game.
The Pirates were unable to cash in when they had opportunities and fall further behind the Reds division lead. They will start a three game series against the Cubs tomorrow night.
Winning Pitcher: Lucas Harrell (8-7)
Losing Pitcher: James McDonald (10-5)
MVP: Marwin Gonzalez 3-5 3 RBI
LVP: James McDonald/Kevin Correia: 7 IP, 11 hits, 9 R/ER, 8 BB, 7 K
Play of the Game: Jordan Schafer homer in fourth inning after Pirates got the lead
Home Runs: Jones (16), Schafer (4)
Up Next: Monday, July 30 at Chicago Cubs at 8:05 p.m. EDT
Probable Starters: Erik Bedard (5-11 4.32 ERA) vs Justin Germano (0-1 1.04 ERA)