Bullpen Gives Up Five Runs As Pirates Drop Game One To Astros

By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: AP
The Pirates were certainly relieved to be leaving St. Louis, where they completed a four game series yesterday in which they lost three games at Busch Stadium.  Following a series in a difficult series in St. Louis, it was a nice change of pace to pull into Houston for a three-game date with the Astros, baseball’s worst team. 
With just 44 wins, the Astros are on their way to their first 100-loss season in franchise history.  The Pirates have had a lot of success against Houston this year, as has the rest of the league, but Pittsburgh is 9-3 against their divisional foes, so confidence should have been at an all-time high.
Unfortunately, the Pirates led an early lead slip away tonight, and Carlos Lee blasted a three-run homerun which would prove to be the difference as the Astros took game one over the Pirates, 6-3 at Minute Maid Park.
Houston’s starter Wandy Rodriguez pitched a great game, minus the fourth inning.  The lefty struck out a career-high 13 batters through his seven innings of work.  Despite giving up three runs in the fourth inning, Rodriguez only gave up a total of four hits on the night.
Ross Ohlendorf started out very well for Pittsburgh, making through the first three innings without surrendering a hit.  He ran into trouble, though, in the fourth and fifth innings, and was pulled after the fifth, having given up two runs on five hits.  His ERA now sits at 6.27 for the season.
The Pirates’ bullpen really struggled tonight, giving up the game-deciding runs to the Astros.  The trio of Jason Grilli, Jose Veras, and Tony Watson gave up five runs on eight hits in their three innings of work.  Veras has been particularly frustrating as of late, and that trend continued tonight, giving up two runs on two hits while recording just two outs.
The first hit of the ballgame came in the top of the fourth inning, courtesy of Josh Harrison, who sparked a flurry of extra-base hits that put the Pirates in front.  Andrew McCutchen’s two-run homerun scored Harrison, giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 advantage.  Neil Walker and Ryan Doumit hit back-to-back doubles, with Doumit’s two-bagger scoring Walker, and the Pirates owned a 3-0 lead as they headed to the bottom of the frame.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, after the fourth inning, the Pirates would tally only one more hit throughout the rest of the night. 
Houston got a run back in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by J.D. Martinez.  They’d add another run in the fifth inning on an RBI knock by Jordan Schafer, and the Astros were within a run after five.
The seventh inning ended up dooming the Pirates this evening, as the Astros tagged Grilli and Veras for four runs.  After Schafer was hit by a pitch and Jose Altuve doubled, Martinez smacked a ground ball to Brandon Wood at third base, who threw the ball to Doumit for the out at home.  The ball hit Schafer, who was breaking for the plate, and bounced away, allowing Schafer to score and tie the game. 
Carlos Lee delivered the knockout punch for Houston, hitting a towering fly ball to left field off Veras, giving the Astros a 6-3 lead.
The Astros added a run in the eighth to further pad the lead to 7-3, which would be the final.
After Ronny Cedeno tripled home Garrett Jones in the bottom of the ninth to trim the lead to 7-4, Jose Tabata struck out looking to end the game.
This loss certainly leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Pirates’ fans.  The Astros are a team who has been at the bottom of their division all season long, and they’ve dumped their two biggest stars in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourne.  Tonight’s win was just their 45th of the season, and is just their fourth against the Pirates in 13 chances. 
If the Pirates want to finish up this season on a positive note, they need to win games against the teams who are below them, and compete against the teams that are above them.  They didn’t do that tonight.  Pittsburgh is a season-high ten games under the .500 mark, and after a great start against the N.L. Central, they now have a losing record against their divisional foes.
Pittsburgh will look to even the series tomorrow night when they send Charlie Morton to the mound.  First pitch is scheduled for 8:05pm.
Record Vs. Astros: 9-4
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 31-32
Record On The Road: 31-35
Overall Record: 62-72
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!

Chad Carlson

Co-Editor of Fans From The Stands, Pirates' Beat Writer For Armchair Report, Sports writer for AMN, SteelTownRock And Music City Encore Editor

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