HOUSTON,TX- JULY 16: First baseman Carlos Lee #45 of the Houston Astros waits for the ball while Brandon Wood #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates dives back to first base in the second inning on July 16, 2011 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Well, that wasn't the way this was supposed to work, was it? I was sure the headline was going to start with "Neil Walker Takes Over, Bucs Stay In First Place," but it wasn't to be, as Jose Veras blew a late lead.
About the only thing I don't like about a series against the Astros is Bud Norris, because I always worry about the Bucs' offense when it has to face pitchers who rack up strikeouts. But the Pirates did a nice job getting to him. The only problem was that Paul Maholm allowed nine hits in only five innings, and the Astros scored one in the second on a passed ball and two in the third on a homer by Jeff Keppinger. The Pirates came storming back in the middle innings, though, with solo homers by Walker (who went 4-for-5 and made a crucial catch), Lyle Overbay (who went 2-for-4 and looked good at the plate all day) and Brandon Wood. They went up 4-3 when Michael McKenry doubled and Walker knocked him in.
Chris Resop then got through the seventh without an issue, but Veras walked Hunter Pence to start the eighth. Pence then moved up on a groundout and stole third (on a play in which McKenry didn't throw, even though it looked like he might have gunned Pence down if he had). Pence then came home on a grounder by Brett Wallace, and then there was an error and a couple of singles, and the Astros wound up with a 6-4 lead. Mark Melancon got the Pirates 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth.