The offensively-challenged Pittsburgh Pirates were unable to score tonight against Bud Norris and three Astros relievers. Houston’ Brian Bogusevic crossed the plate on a second inning double-play ball for the game’s only run. Pirate’s starter James McDonald had an excellent outing and was deserving of a better fate. McDonald allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out eight in eight innings pitched. Run support has been an issue for McDonald, who dropped to 2-2 for the year despite a 2.42 ERA.
Norris retired the first nine batters he faced and then things got interesting. Jose Tabata led off the fourth with a triple. After a popout Andrew McCutchen came to the plate and the Astros employed a crash play. McCutchen hit a ground ball right at a charging Jed Lowrie and Tabata was a dead duck at the plate. McCutchen subsequently tried to steal second base and was gunned down by Jason Castro to end the inning.
In the sixth inning the Buccos loaded the bases with no outs and Norris was able to walk the tightrope once again. Norris went strikeout, popup, strikeout against the top of the order to get out of the jam. Bud left the game after the sixth, having allowed only three hits and striking out eight.
Pittsburgh threatened again in the eighth when Rod Barajas singled against Wilton Lopez to lead off the inning. Josh Harrison came in as a pinch-runner and Clint Barmes attempted to bunt him over to second. Barmes fouled off a couple of bunt attempts but squared around again on an inside pitch that struck his bat for a strikeout. At least that’s what we thought. After Clint Hurdle complained, home plate umpire James Hoye asked for help and reversed the call. It was determined that Barmes was trying to get out of the way of the pitch when it hit his bat, resulting in a foul ball but not a bunt attempt. It was actually the correct call, but Brad Mills didn’t think so.
Mills argued his point vehemently and was ultimately tossed from the game. With Barmes still batting, and before Mills could get halfway down the tunnel, Lopez spun and picked-off Harrison at first. I always love it when a pinch-runner gets picked-off. It happens more often than you would think. Anyway, Barmes grounded out and all of the air had been let out of the Pirates balloon.
Brett Myers finished things off with a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save of the year. Norris improved to 3-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.95. Slumping outfielder J.D. Martinez was once again left out of the starting lineup. J.A. Happ goes to the mound for Houston tomorrow against Charlie Morton and the Pirates.