Pedro Alvarez struck with a massive home run into the Allegheny to tie the game. (Photo credit: David Hague)
Pedro Alvarez will frustrate the hell out of you. Pedro Alvarez will be unwatchable at the plate. Pedro Alvarez will fly south of the Mendoza Line for a month and a half.
Pedro Alvarez will also come up in the 8th inning of a game and tie it with one swing, send a ball 462 feet, have it one-hop into the Allegheny River and land under a freakin’ boat. Such is life with Pedro Alvarez.
Once it was tied up, a walkoff error by Houston Astros right fielder Jimmy Paredes, who ran into second baseman Jake Elmore to give the Pirates (25-17) their fourth-straight win, and erased an atrocious three-run fifth inning to the last-place Astros (11-31). McCutchen homered in the 1st and scored on a Garrett Jones RBI double in the 6th to keep the Bucs in striking distance before the late-inning comeback ended in Houston fashion.
Starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez began the game well (leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman doubling and scoring in the 1st notwithstanding), but once the fifth inning came around, he and Pirates looked like the team the Astros were used to seeing in past years. Gomez served up a solo homer to Matt Dominguez, then a single to Marwin Gonzalez. After Lyles bunted Gonzalez over, Gomez allowed his first walk to Grossman and an RBI single to Jake Elmore.
Then things got weird. Elmore was dead on arrival trying to steal second, but Russell Martin’s throw was in the dirt in front of Clint Barmes. The ball skipped behind the bag to Neil Walker, whose throw home to get Grossman was off-target. Grossman scored to put the Astros up 4-1, and errors were charged to Barmes and Walker. Gomez went on to walk Jason Castro, and was promptly removed.
There were few signs that Gomez would labor through the fifth inning as he did. The right-hander completed the first four innings with a very low count of 36 pitches. Granted, he got only two hitters to swing and miss in the contest, but his command had been good prior to the home run, two singles and two walks.
The Pirates mounted a comeback effort in the 6th with starter Jordan Lyles’ pitch count climbing. Right fielder Chris Carter dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Andrew McCutchen, then Garrett Jones drove in McCutchen with a double down the right-field line. A total of 89 pitches was all for Lyles, as left-hander Travis Blackley entered to face Neil Walker.
On the first pitch, Walker laid down a bunt right back to Blackley, who tossed it to third for the easy out of Jones. That free out didn’t stop the Pirates from loading the bases on Russell Martin hitting a single and reliever Paul Clemens walking pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez. Jordy Mercer popped out in the bases-loaded situation, though, keeping the Astros lead at two.
Another two-out scoring opportunity arrived in the 7th. McCutchen doubled off Clemens, but pinch-hitter Brandon Inge hit a ground ball right back to reliever Wesley Wright to keep the Pirates from causing any damage.
Try, try again. In the 8th, Walker got aboard with a leadoff single, then scored on Alvarez’s explosive swing. Against Edgar Gonzalez, Starling Marte led off the 9th with a bloop single over Elmore’s head. Marte was thrown out at second on Travis Snider’s check swing plop to third, but Snider reached. He went to third base on McCutchen’s single to right. Brandon Inge reached when Gonzalez bobbled a comebacker, then Walker struck out looking. Martin hit a pop fly into center, the Astros did Astros things, and it sent the Pirates’ contingent of the 29,743 fans at PNC Park home with a smile.