Home Pittsburgh Sports College Football Pedro comes through again, pushes Pirates to 1-0 win

Pedro comes through again, pushes Pirates to 1-0 win

Houston Astros starter Lucas Harrell entered the fifth inning without allowing the Pittsburgh Pirates to record a single hit. In fact, the Pirates only owned one base-runner until that point when Pedro Alvarez drew a walk in the second inning.

Harrell retired Neil Walker to begin the fifth, and with one out Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate. One pitch later, Alvarez gave the Pirates their first hit of the game and the only run they would need in a 1-0 victory over Houston that gave Pittsburgh (26-18) the series win in conjunction with Friday’s walk-off win.

“The ball was out in the blink of an eye. That’s the shortest home run he might have hit,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s good hitting. Those kinds of things, it’s great when it happens because it reaffirmed Petey—you can do this, that ball out there you can barrel it up, you can ride it out of this ballpark.”

Alvarez’s blast played a key role in Sunday afternoon’s proceedings as the Pirates handed the Astros (12-32) their American League-worst 32nd loss, but it would’ve been irrelevant if not for the pitching of lefty Jeff Locke. Locke (4-1) worked seven shutout innings, throwing 94 pitches and allowing only three hits and two walks and lowered his ERA to 2.73.

“There were some pitches early on that I felt were real good pitches, that I felt I had real good command of,” Locke said. “There were times in the game when I fell behind, 1-0, 2-0, put them in some pretty good hitter’s counts but I was able to make pitches and use the defense.”

It was an effort the Pirates absolutely required from their starter, as Pirates hitters seemed to find no bearing against the Astros pitching Sunday. The only runner Pittsburgh put in scoring position was Travis Snider in the sixth, who was gunned down at the plate trying to score on a single by Gaby Sanchez.

“He pitched very well today, and the word pitched is the imperative word here. That’s not the best stuff he’s had all season,” Hurdle said. “He cha-cha’d around the lineup, he mixed, he matched, McKenry did a fine job with sequences, his curveball, his change-up played well.”

After Locke’s day finished, Mark Melancon entered the game in the eighth after allowing Houston to tie the ballgame in the eighth at 2-2 Saturday. Sunday, Melancon gave the effort Pirates fans have come to expect from the set-up man, as he struck out one and retired the side in order.

Jason Grilli entered in the ninth, and worked a perfect inning to record save no. 17 on the season. The save places Grilli in first place among all closers, pulling ahead of the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera who owns 16.

At the top of the lineup, Hurdle needed to call on Starling Marte to play center-field as Andrew McCutchen was scratched pre-game due to soreness in his knee.

“I don’t know if precautionary is the right word to use, but I didn’t want to play him,” Hurdle said.

Marte was supposed to get a day off to “re-charge his batteries” as Hurdle put it pre-game, and had a 0-for-4 day at the plate to drop his batting average to .305 after going 6-for-27 total over the course of the past seven home games.

Harrell (3-5) entered with a 5.11 ERA but for the third game in a row, the Astros’ starter found success against the Pirates hitters and kept them at bay through the middle parts of the game. Harrell finished after seven as well, holding Pittsburgh to just four hits and a walk with the only blemish on his day the home run to Alvarez.

Alvarez’s home is the shortest in his career, and was an opposite field shot that landed next to the left-field foul pole. The line drive ended up no further than the second row of seats in the left-field bleachers, and resembled the polar opposite of the 462-foot bomb Alvarez hit into the Allegheny River Friday night.

“I just remember hitting it and knowing it was going to be fair, but I didn’t know if it was going to carry as much as it did,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez finished 1-for-2 Sunday with a walk and responsible for the only Pirates run. Alvarez’s day brought his average over the Mendoza Line after a 2-for-4 day Friday, and Alvarez now leads the Pirates with eight home runs while ranking third in RBI with 23.

The small sample of success this weekend hopefully indicates success on a large scale from one of Major League Baseball’s most powerful hitters, and comes as a continued commitment to a consistent approach.

“Like I’ve said numerous times before, you’ve gotta keep going. Keep keeping the approach, keep the positive mindset that if you do stick to your approach, things will turn around for the better,” Alvarez said. “Every day you try to do a little bit for the long run.”

Pittsburgh’s win in Sunday’s matinee won the series against Houston, a team the Pirates will not play again the rest of the season. The series victory runs the Pirates’ overall series record to 8-4-2 on the season as the Chicago Cubs come to town Tuesday after Monday’s off-day.

Fans likely expected the Pirates to deliver dominant efforts against the American League’s worst team—especially after Pittsburgh’s impressive offensive effort in a 7-1 win against Milwaukee Thursday—but the weekend featured three close ballgames.

“For three games, the quality kind of roamed around the board with the execution, but there were three very good baseball games, competitive baseball games. Those always are better for focus and attention because any little hiccup can put you in peril,” Hurdle said. “The other team came to play, we were able to win the series.”

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