Pirates come from behind in victory
That deafening roar echoing out of Pittsburgh tonight wasn’t for the Steelers. It wasn’t even for the Penguins. It was for the Pirates.
For the second night in a row a rambunctious Pirates crowd cheered a come-from-behind Bucs win.
The crowd didn’t have to wait long for the excitement to start tonight.
Houston threatened early when two of the first four Astro batters reached scoring position. With two outs recorded already though, the pressure was on Scott Moore to out-duel Pirates pitcher AJ Burnett.
He could not.
Burnett whiffed Moore and the Pirates escaped the first inning in a scoreless tie. Pittsburgh's pitcher---and winner of nine straight---could not keep Houston at bay in the second, however.
Consecutive singles to Brian Bogusevic, pitcher Lucas Harrell and Jordan Schafer were sandwiched around a Chris Snyder walk. The parade of Astros reaching base concluded with a Jose Altuve sacrifice fly and 2-0 Pirates deficit.
After a 1-2-3 inning by the Bucs offense, Houston again rattled Burnett.
Carlos Lee pounded his second double of the game into the gap and Moore atoned for his early game shortcomings by driving him home to push Houston in front 3-0.
Little offense was generated by either team for the remainder of the inning but both teams would score in the fourth.
For Houston, Jed Lowrie was the source of offense, as he drove in Altuve from second base to extend the Astros lead to 4-0.
Answering for Pittsburgh was All-Star Andrew McCutchen.
In true superstar fashion, McCutchen rallied the Bucs with a two-run home run over the right field wall. The Pirates outfielder entered the game with the second best batting average in the MLB and Player-of-the-Month honors for June. He showed why with his 16th blast of the season.
"He is ridiculous. He is hitting home runs, beating out balls with his speed and hitting all over the field," teammate Garrett Jones said of the Pirates star. "It's unbelievable what a player he is and how he has matured."
The Pirates Drew Sutton was the only batter to reach base in the fifth inning before the teams heated up again in the sixth.
Burnett surrendered his fifth double of the game to Snyder just two pitches into the sixth frame. Harrell completed his second successful bunt of the game and Schafer singled to put Houston on top 5-2.
Two batters later, Lowrie produced his second RBI of the match by bringing home Harrell on a sacrifice fly.
Eight Pirates saw the field in the bottom of the sixth inning, including pitcher James McDonald---as a pinch runner.
Garrett Jones, Neil Walker and Casey McGehee kicked off the frame with three consecutive singles, cutting Houston’s lead to 6-3.
"Good teams pick each other up every night," Sutton said after the contest. "Whether it is on offense or defense, or if it is the pitching picking up the hitting. Teams who get on runs go back and forth. It’s not one side helping the other side the whole time. Its a good sign to me.”
With two runners on and the bottom of the order due up, Hurdle sent Pedro Alvarez in to pinch hit for Clint Barmes.
After starting in an 0-2 hole, Alvarez battled his way back to pull the Pirates within 6-5 on a two RBI, nine-pitch at-bat.
Manager Clint Hurdle seemed as excited as the 21,000 person crowd at PNC Park.
"Pedro let the bat go early and then he laid off some pitches. He stroked the ball to the big part of the ball park. It gave us some more momentum and life going forward."
McCutchen would do the rest in the bottom of the seventh. The quick centerfielder recorded his second infield hit of the night and Jones followed by smacking a two-run home run over the right field wall to put the Pirates on top 7-6.
"He is a superstar," Jones said of McCutchen. "That is the only way to describe him."
Unwilling to surrender, Houston knocked Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan around in the top of the ninth inning. Jason Castro was the hero as he drove in Lowrie on an RBI double.
“It was poor execution. I didn’t throw it hard enough," Hanrahan said of his pitch to Castro. "He put up a good at-bat."
Castro's double, however, was outdone by Sutton in the bottom of the ninth when he blasted his first homerun of the season to give the Pirates an 8-7 walk-off win.
For Sutton, the blast didn't come without preparation.
“[Houston pitcher Wesley Wright] threw a lot of sliders. It seemed like his pitch. I knew I hit it well, but I didn’t know if it was deep center well."
The walk-off was just the Pirates second of the year.
Pittsburgh and Houston faceoff again tomorrow at 1:35. Kevin Correia will take the mound for the Pirates while Dallas Keuchel starts for the Astros.