Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/18/14

The Pirates have taken care of business against the Astros so far this year, but for the most part it hasn’t been easy. A number of their wins over Houston have been close and/or comebacks. Tonight was no different, and possibly the most dramatic of the bunch.

Jeff Karstens didn’t dominate the Astros like he had in the past. He struck out seven, but allowed six hits and lasted just five innings. I’m guessing it was a combination of a better approach by Houston and a slightly off night for Karstens, but he was hit relatively hard. A bunch of well placed singles, a squeeze bunt (that was nearly foiled, but Michael McKenry couldn’t come up with the tag at home) and two solo homers gave the Astros four runs off Jeff.

The Bucs were a mess offensively the first time around against struggling Jordan Lyles (just like the first time they faced him), but picked things up the second time around. Alex Presley ripped a solo homer to get the Bucs on the board, and McKenry hit his ninth bomb (with Pedro Alvarez on base) to bring them within one in the fifth. McKenry had another huge day at the dish and continues to post legitimately impressive numbers. He’s building a case for the majority of starts over Rod Barajas, for sure.

The Fort started things up again in the seventh with a leadoff double. The Bucs played small ball (and actually did it properly) to get him home, using a Clint Barmes bunt and a Josh Harrison sac fly to get the job done. That tied the game, but a bad outing by Jared Hughes untied it quickly. Houston cashed in on a leadoff triple and nearly got more, but Hughes stranded three runners.

The Pirates had a chance to tie it again in the eighth, but some solid maneuvering by Astros manager Brad Mills prevailed. Mills brought in lefty Wesley Wright to face Presley, and Presley grounded out. He didn’t want the lefty to face Andrew McCutchen, but wanted him to face the following hitters Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez. So instead of lifting Wright or letting him face Cutch, he moved Wright to RF while a new pitcher faced Cutch. Cutch ripped a double, but Wright came back in and got Jones and Walker to end the inning (and Pedro to lead off the ninth).

With one out in the ninth, the Fort (who else?) started things off with a single. Drew Sutton pinch hit and drew a walk, then Casey McGehee did the same to load the bases with one out for Starling Marte. Marte hadn’t looked too good (0-4, 2 K) up to that point on the night, but pounded a low 1-0 pitch to deep center for a game-tying sac-fly. Huge.  Next thing you know, a wild pitch got away and Sutton raced in to slide just ahead of the tag for a Pirates lead.

Joel Hanrahan allowed a single and a stolen base in the bottom of the ninth, but escaped for his 31st save–putting him atop the majors. He’s been shaky lately, but has been getting it done…and according to some ESPN formula, he’s the leading NL Cy Young candidate…? That’s, uh, interesting.

The Pirates were lucky to escape what would have been a bad loss tonight, but they were able to battle back and get it done late, so give them some credit. The Astros helped a ton, of course, and they’ve now lost 11 in a row and 24 of 26. Brutal.

Pirates 6, Astros 5 / Box / 2012 Record: 57-42 / Next: Saturday, at Astros, 7:05

MVP: Sutton (+.435) / LVP: Walker (-.273) / Key play: The go ahead wild pitch

©2012 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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