May 19, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (top) throws to first base after forcing out Houston Astros left fielder Chris Carter (23) at second base during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Locke, Alvarez pace Pittsburgh Pirates to series win over Houston Astros

The Pittsburgh Pirates are used to winning against the Houston Astros, however each game in the concluded three-game series was tightly contested, including Sunday’s 1-0 Bucs win at PNC Park.Last season, fans looked forward to facing the Astros knowing they were easy wins. But Friday it took extra innings to win, Saturday the Pirates blew their lead in the eighth inning and for four innings on Sunday, they failed to register a hit.

The game was a pitcher’s duel between Jeff Locke and Lucas Harrell. Harrell was not even supposed to start today as it was Bud Norris who on the schedule. Astros manager Bo Porter decided not to start Norris as tweaked his back throwing warm up pitches last Monday.

Both teams struggled to get a hit Sunday, and the first one was registered in the fifth inning thanks to a single by Houston’s Carlos Corporan. In the bottom of the inning, Pedro Alvarez came up and hit a line-drive home run to left field, just staying in fair territory. The homer was his eighth of the season.

Locke meanwhile was dealing. He pitched seven innings, allowing five baserunners, three of those via hits. He threw 94 pitches in the effort, which ended in a double play.

Mark Melancon pitched the eighth inning, and retired the side in order. The last batter, Carlos Pena hit a tailing fly ball that Starling Marte caught by diving.

Jason Grilli came on to pitch the ninth inning and got the job done. This meant that Grilli got his MLB-leading 17th save and Locke improved his record to 4-1 on the season.

Ever since the Milwaukee Brewers stole six bases Monday against Pittsburgh’s Michael McKenry, the catcher as well as bench coach Jeff Banister worked hard to improve this area of the game. In the second inning McKenry had a defensive breakthrough as he threw out his second runner of the season, gunning down Brandon Barnes.

The Pirates have Monday off before opening a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Wandy Rodriguez (4-2, 3.25 ERA) will get the start against Matt Garza, making his season debut.

Of note: Andrew McCutchen was held out of today’s lineup with soreness in his right knee. Starling Marte was supposed to have the day off instead with Travis Snider to hit lead off.

Projected starters for Pirates vs Cubs

Tuesday: Wandy Rodriguez [4-2, 3.25] vs Matt Garza [First start]
Wednesday: Francisco Liriano [2-0, 1.64] vs Jeff Samardzija [2-5, 3.49]
Thursday: Jeanmar Gomez [2-0, 2.78] vs Edwin Jackson [1-6, 5.76]

Tags: Houston Astros Jeff Locke Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates

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