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McCutchen belts two blasts to lead Bucs

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Andrew McCutchen hit two homers and drove in four runs, and Jason Jaramillo singled in Chase d'Arnaud with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Pirates beat Houston 5-4 to win consecutive series for the first time since July 19.

Jason Jaramillo's big moment ended with dirt stains and a stumble. But before he got caught in a rundown between first and second base, his pinch-hit single in the eighth inning allowed Chase d'Arnaud to slide home with the decisive run in a 5-4, come-from-behind win over the Astros at PNC Park.
"It didn't look too pretty," Jaramillo said, "but it worked out."

Following consecutive pinch-hit singles from Garrett Jones (who had Chase d'Arnaud pinch-run for him) and Ryan Doumit off Wilton Lopez (2-6), Jaramillo stepped in against lefty Sergio Escalona. Escalona quickly dropped in a pair of curveballs for called strikes, but Jaramillo fought off a fastball and laid off a breaker in the dirt. Jaramillo then jumped on a fastball and poked it to right field.

"I think the numbers will tell you we were due," Pirates manager Hurdle said, noting that his club snapped an 0-for-19 pitch-hitting stretch in Chicago. "J.J. getting that ball through the infield was a real nice piece of hitting."

The Astros (48-95) jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, as Pirates (66-77) starter Brian Burres served up back-to-back home runs to Carlos Lee and Matt Downs in the second inning and surrendered another shot to Clint Barmes in the fourth. The only offense the Pirates mustered against J.A. Happ through four came courtesy of Andrew McCutchen, who drove a first-pitch fastball over the right-center field wall for a solo home run in the first inning.

With two on in the fifth, 'Cutch came up swinging again. He pulled another Happ fastball down the left field line for his 22nd homer of the season, tying it up at four apiece.

"That's just a grown man hitting the ball to right-center field that deep, and he just mauled the ball to left field," Hurdle said. "McCutch lets it eat up there every time he goes up there."

"It's just more of knowing myself and what I'm capable of doing, knowing that I can drive the ball the other way," McCutchen said. "I'm starting to trust myself a lot more, let the ball travel and take the ball the other way."

Happ, who blanked the Pirates over seven innings at Minute Maid Park on August 31, struck out eight but also walked four batters and allowed five hits in five innings. He labored through 120 pitches.

"He cut us up in Houston. There wasn't much of a fight on our part," Hurdle said. "He probably wasn't as sharp [tonight], but we didn't give him any breathing room and we didn't give him a safety net. We made him pitch, we got ahead in the count, and when he did make mistakes, we put the barrel on it."

While McCutchen was blasting the Pirates back into the ballgame, Pittsburgh's 'pen shut down Houston. Jared Hughes (making his MB debut), Daniel McCutchen, Chris Leroux, Tony Watson (2-2) and Joel Hanrahan combined to throw 5.1 innings of scoreless relief.

"I'm very happy with our bullpen work today," Hurdle said. "Everybody that took the ball was efficient and effective and went after people. It was just what we needed. Unfortunately, Brian just didn't have a whole lot today."

Burress lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits.

"I left some over the fat part of the plate, and I got hit pretty hard" Burres said.

The Pirates victory gave Hurdle his 600th victory as a major league manager.

"I don't have many balls in my collection," Hurdle said. "I think the first one I got as a manager was my 500th. Jeff [Bannister] gave me this one, and I'll keep this one. This one has some meaning to it."

Right-hander Jared Hughes made his MLB debut Wednesday night, tossing 1.1 scoreless innings against the Astros. Hughes sat in the low-90s with his fastball and mixed in a few low-80s sliders. It didn't take him long to get his first out: Houston's Jimmy Paredes bounced a first-pitch fastball back to Hughes for the final out of the fourth inning.

"I was nervous running in, but once I got to the mound, it all went away," Hughes said. "I was just really excited, really amped up."

The 26-year-old, selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Long Beach State, started most of his minor league career but shifted to the bullpen upon reaching Triple-A Indianapolis, where he compiled a 45-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.11 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched.

The Pirates activated OF Ryan Ludwick from the 15-day disabled list. The 33-year-old, acquired from the Padres on July 31 for a player to be named later or cash, had been out of action since August 22 with muscle spasms in his back. Ludwick batted sixth and played right field on Wednesday.

Altoona Curve outfielder Starling Marte was named August's Eastern League Player of the Month. The 22-year-old batted .393, got on base at a .437 clip and slugged .650 during August, slugging five home runs and swiping six bases.

Overall, Marte hit .332/.370/.500 with 12 home runs and 24 steals while also earning the Eastern League Rookie of the Year Award and being selected as a member of both the Eastern League All-Star team and the XM All-Star Futures Game World team

After an off day on Thursday, RHP Ricky Nolasco (9-10, 4.39 ERA) faces RHP Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 6.35 ERA). Since returning to the majors on August 23 following a four-month stint on the DL with a strained right shoulder, Ohlendorf has allowed 12 runs in 14 innings, striking out 11 batters and walking five.

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