Pirates’ Slide Continues, Astros Complete Sweep With 2-0 Victory

By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: AP
The Houston Astros are the hottest team in baseball!  Ok, not really…but they have been playing their best baseball of the season in the last two weeks with a lineup that includes a number of AA and AAA players that have been given the chance to play, due to moves in the organization. 
As for the Pirates, they’re playing arguably their worst baseball of the season.  It has been an abysmal month for the Pirates, having won just eight games in August.  It was thought a series against the lowly Astros would help turn things around for Pittsburgh. 
It hasn’t quite worked out that way, as the Pirates entered tonight’s game at Minute Maid Park looking to avoid the sweep against the Astros.  James McDonald took the hill looking for his ninth victory of the season against Houston’s J.A. Happ, who came in sporting a 4-15 record and a 6.03 ERA.  This should have been the game the Pirates could turn things around…right?
Wrong.  Happ pitched seven scoreless innings, and the bullpen pitched two flawless frames as the Astros shutout the Pirates 2-0 to complete the three-game sweep tonight at Minute Maid Park.
The Pirates managed just four hits tonight, three of which against Happ, who earned his fifth victory of the season while lowering his ERA to 5.71.
McDonald suffered his seventh loss of the season for Pittsburgh, who gave up two runs (1 earned) on seven hits.  Tony Watson, Jose Veras, and Joel Hanrahan collectively threw two innings in relief.
The Astros showed some glimpses as to why they have the worst record in baseball in the second inning.  They loaded the bases against McDonald without recording a single out.  The Pirates’ right hander forced Humberto Quintero into a pop-out at second base, struck out Happ, and got Jordan Schafer to ground out.  The game was still scoreless after the second.
Houston put the pressure on McDonald again in the fourth inning, but, unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Astros didn’t squander this opportunity.  With runners on first and third and no outs, Quintero hit a weak ball in between McDonald and Ryan Doumit, which the Pirates’ catcher looked the runner at third back to the base before throwing and recording the out at first base.  Jimmy Paredes, the runner at third, broke for home and, thanks to Garrett Jones’ throwing error, scored the game’s first run.  Schafer’s bunt single scored Angel Sanchez from third base, and the Astros led 2-0 after four innings.
That was the only offense Happ and the pitching staff would need, as they held the Pirates’ offense in check all night.  Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and Andrew McCutchen combined to go 0-11, and the Pirates never really threatened to score all night.  They were shut out for the 12th time this season.
The Pirates managed just 14 hits total in the three-game series, and after a great road record to begin the season, they’ve fallen to six games under .500 away from PNC Park.
Being swept by the last-place Astros capped off a horrible August for the Bucs, as they turn the page on this month with an 8-22 record.  They now sit 12 games under .500, the lowest they’ve been all year.
They’ll look to turn things around on a short one-game home stand tomorrow afternoon in a make-up game at PNC Park against the Los Angeles Dodgers, before traveling to Chicago for a three-game series against the Cubs.  Brad Lincoln will start for Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon at 4:05pm.
Record Vs. Astros: 9-6
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 31-34
Record On The Road: 31-37
Overall Record: 62-74
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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