Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 9/3/12

 There isn’t much of anything good to be said about this one. The Pirates opened up their big homestand with a bland, disheartening loss to an Astros team that showed a lot more life than the Bucs.

Jeff Locke did not get off to a good start. The Astros singled on three of his first four pitches, loading the bases right away. Locke almost got out of it with a force out at home and a near-double play to second, but Brock Holt‘s attempted tag missed and the ump did not rule the runner out of the baseline. Houston led 1-0, which didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

The Astros added on against Locke, though, tallying seven hits against him on the afternoon. The lefty didn’t look too bad but definitely left a few too many pitches right over the heart of the plate, and even the Astros will make you pay for that. A walk and a single led to another run in the third, but two singles (one of which should’ve been handled by Clint Barmes) set up the big blow in the fifth: a three-run blast by Brett Wallace.

The Pirates should’ve been able to at least have a chance to win despite Locke’s subpar start, since they were going up against the freshly called up Edgar Gonzalez – who had just come out of the freaking Mexican League and had a career MLB ERA of nearly 6. Well, Gonzalez struck out the first two batters he faced on six pitches, and that set the tone for the afternoon. The Pirates mustered just five hits total against him, and three of them were by Garrett Jones. The other two (a Pedro Alvarez triple and a Barmes single) produced the only Pirate run in the fifth. Every other inning was very quick and stress-free for Gonzalez and the Houston bullpen.

The Pirates can’t afford to be losing games like this to an awful Astros team. I understand that bad days happen, but today they looked like they lacked focus, which isn’t going to get the job done against anybody. The loss dropped the Pirates another game in the wild card hunt (now 2.5 games back) and they’re getting close to the point where .500 will be the more relevant conversation than a possible playoff berth.

Astros 5, Pirates 1 / Box / 2012 Record: 70-64 / Next: Tuesday, vs. Astros, 7:05

MVP: Jones (+.110) / LVP: Locke (-.247) / Key play: Wallace’s HR

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