HOUSTON - JUNE 16: Garrett Jones #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a three run home run in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 16, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
James McDonald was shaky again today, allowing four walks and three runs in 5.2 innings, and opposing starter Jordan Lyles struck out eight batters, looking really good for a 20-year-old. Fortunately, Lyles' rocky first inning really hurt him - Jose Tabata reached on a bunt, Andrew McCutchen walked, Garrett Jones knocked a pitch over the wall in right for his first homer since early May, and McDonald had a three-run cushion before he even took the mound.
The Astros scored two runs in the fourth and then added another in the fifth. They might have had a lead at that point, but in the third, Ronny Cedeno had made a brilliant throw home on a double by Carlos Lee to nab Hunter Pence at the plate. Tabata had reached up at the wall in left and nearly made the catch, but instead it dropped right in front of him, and he grabbed it on one bounce and chucked it in to Cedeno, who got the ball out of his hand quickly and threw a strike.
The Pirates retook the lead in the sixth when McCutchen and Neil Walker both singled, and Jones hit a ball that glanced off Michael Bourn's glove. Josh Harrison then hit a double to score Walker, and the Pirates took a 5-3 lead. Jones got called out at home on the play, even though it wasn't clear whether Astros catcher Carlos Corporan tagged him.
Joel Hanrahan was unavailable after pitching three straight games, so Clint Hurdle turned to Jose Veras to get the save. I groaned, but I'm not really sure what else Hurdle could have done. Veras got into trouble, allowing an RBI single by Jeff Keppinger. With two outs, Veras got Carlos Lee to ground to third; Brandon Wood flubbed the ball, but threw to first to beat Lee by a fraction of a fraction of a second. Good thing Lee is so slow. Game over, and the Pirates completed a sweep of the 'Stros and are now two games above .500 as they head to interleague play. The Bucs are now 3.5 games out in the N.L. Central, and it looks like the Brewers are going to lose here shortly, which would put the Pirates just three games back.
McCutchen, by the way, had his hitting streak taken away from him despite hitting safely today - the Mets apparently asked Major League Baseball to review a play a few days ago where McCutchen hit a ball that Daniel Murphy failed to field. The play had been ruled a hit, but now it's an error.