Paul Maholm finally got to experience what it was like to get more than one run of support and the offense continued to stay hot with 14 hits and the Pirates got their first win in nine attempts when they have a chance to move three games above .500 with a 5-3 win over the Astros.
Maholm got scored on first in this game as the Astros pushed across one run on two hits. With one out Jeff Keppinger singled to center followed by a Hunter Pence single to push Keppinger to third base with only one out. Carlos Lee then drove a ball to deep left centerfield for the sacrifice fly to give the visitors an early lead.
The Pirates got on the board in the bottom of the second inning with a single run when Michael McKenry picked up his second career RBI by driving home Lyle Overbay to tie the game up. The Bucs had a chance for a second run when Alex Presley singled with two outs and Josh Harrison on second base but Harrison was gunned down by a great throw from Pence. There was a small collision at home plate and Harrison was defiantly shaken up. He would leave after the third inning, but that wasn’t soon enough.
I say that he didn’t leave soon enough because he had one of the worst defensive innings you can have in the top of the third inning. Harrison botched two balls and the Pirates made three errors in total and looked like a chicken with their head cut off. Lee drove in his second run of the day to score Keppinger, who reached second on an error from Harrison, and then Pence scored when Harrison couldn’t throw out Matt Downs on a grounder to third that would have ended the inning.
The Pirates got back on the board in the their half of the third when Andrew McCutchen his an absolute laser to the centerfield to score Chase d’Arnaud followed by an Overbay single to score McCutchen to tie the game.
The Bucs took the lead for good in the fifth inning when Neil Walker singled home d’Arnaud after he reached base via an infield single.
If there was any indication that this game was over it came in the Houston half of the six inning. With runners on first and second, and no outs and the number eight hitter coming up the Astros elected to bunt. OK I thought, pinch hitter with runners on second and third, that is probably the right move. Trouble is the Astros had their pitcher hit, who had given up 12 hits in five innings and threw almost 90 pitches. Unreal, you choose a position player to bunt runners over FOR THE PITCHER. So Brett Myers grounds out to third, with the infield in, and Downs gets gunned down at home. Maholm gets Bourn to strike out. Inning over. No idea what the Astros were thinking.
The Pirates added an insurance run in the sixth when Presley added his second triple of the season to score Brandon Wood and pretty much put the game away.
-So if you weren’t convinced that Presley is here for good when Tabata comes back then today pretty much put the nail in the coffin. Three more hits for Presely which raised his average to .364. Although Presley hasn’t even played in 10 games you can see this kid has some potential and the skills to help this team right now. When Tabata gets off the DL you can almost bet the house that Presley will be starting in right field which will move Garrett Jones to first base and that will make this team better.
-The Pirates 1-2-3 hitters (Presley, d’Arnaud, Jones) combined to go 7-for-13 with two doubles, a triple and two runs scored. Not too shabby for two young kids and guy who we thought didn’t have it anymore.
-I talked yesterday about how guys like Neil Walker and Overbay needed to start producing more and they continued to do that today, both having two hits. Both also drove in a run.
-The Pirates slammed out 14 hits today and only struck out two times. You are going to win a ton more games than you are going to lose when you get 14 hits. Brandon Wood was the only position player to not have a hit but he was a substitute at third base when Harrison went out and only went 0-for-1 with a walk. Pretty nice day by the offense.
-Paul didn’t have his best stuff today but the offense finally decided to show up for him so that he could pick up his fifth win. He went six innings and only have up five hits and one earned run. He was hampered by some bad defense but other than that he was pretty solid. He did walk three but he pitched to contact and got 11 ground ball outs as opposed to only four fly ball outs.
-The pen, which was shaky for a couple of games, really came back strong. Daniel McCutchen, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan combined to pitch three scoreless innings and only gave up one hit, walked none and struck out one. That is exactly what you need to do when your starter only gets through six innings. With the save Hanrahan sets the Pirates consecutive save streak at 25 and sets the record for most saves before the All-Star break at 25. Nice work.
Back to the park for the second game of the series tomorrow.
If you didn’t get a chance to check it out here is my post about McCutchen and Karstens and their respective arguments to the All-Star game and here is my post that wraps up the Pirates week from June 27-July 3. Check them both out and let me know what you think.