In a game with as many twists and turns as a Shawn White halfpipe run the Pirates prevailed over the Astros 5-4. Houston hitters sleepwalked through the first six innings making Pittsburgh starter James McDonald look like Nolan Ryan. J.A. Happ pitched around trouble and the Astros trailed 2-0 going into the seventh. That’s when Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle made a puzzling decision and removed McDonald from the game.
Pirate reliever Chris Resop promptly surrendered three runs to give Houston the lead. Chris Johnson welcomed Resop to the mound with a solo homer to deep left. After a walk and a double by Humberto Quintero the Astros took the lead on one of the most bizarre plays of the young season. With Angel Sanchez pinch hitting for Happ, Quintero broke for third base with the pitch. Sanchez bunted the ball toward third and Q rounded the bag and headed for home. A double-clutch by third baseman Brandon Wood allowed Quintero to score and Sanchez to reach first. Jeff Fulchino came in for Houston and had a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning thanks to a couple of stellar defensive plays by Clint Barmes and Hunter Pence.
The Astros scored another run in the eighth when Carlos Lee reached on a double that center fielder Andrew McCutchen appeared to catch. Lee advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on a Brett Wallace sacrifice fly. Fernando Abad was summoned to protect a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the inning. Abad surrendered a hit and a walk before serving up a three run blast to Ryan Doumit. Abad falls to 1-3 on the year and now has a 7.50 ERA. It was the third homerun he has allowed. The lefty just hasn’t looked right to me for a while now. He is depending on his off-speed pitches and seems to have lost faith in his fastball. Maybe the extra workload of starting in the winter leagues is taking a toll on him. Whatever the case, his role needs to be reassessed.
Joel Hanrahan came in and secured the victory for Pittsburgh as the Astros went quietly in the ninth. The first six innings were painful to watch. The seventh was a thing of beauty and then the wheels fell off. This one got away but tomorrow is another day. The Astros head home to open up a three game series with Cincinnati starting Monday at 7:05 CDT.