The Pirates offensive woes against the Houston Astros continued as Astros’ left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ recorded his first win in his last five starts by throwing seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and striking out six.
A walk, a single, an errant throw by Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones and a bunt single by Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer provided Houston with the only two runs of the night in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Pirates’ starter James McDonald (8-7) put up a solid six innings of work only, allowing one run and racking up six strike-outs. However, with no offensive support from the Pirates, McDonald suffered his third consecutive loss.
Both sides were scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning. McDonald issued a walk to the Astros’ Jimmy Parades to lead off the inning. Angel Sanchez then singled to left field and moved Parades over to third, putting him into scoring position.
The next batter, Astros’ catcher Humberto Quintero, bunted in front of home plate to Ryan Doumit. As Doumit fired to first, Parades took off from third. First baseman Garrett Jones had to rush his throw back to McDonald, who was covering home plate, but the throw was off-target for Jones’ fifth error of the season, and the Astros scored an unearned run.
Even down two runs, the Pirates bullpen was the lone bright spot of the evening. The bullpen made improvements on the two previous nights, throwing two scoreless innings and only allowing one hit. Tony Watson pitched the seventh inning, with Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan combining efforts to complete the bottom of the eighth.
The Pirates four hits were all singles, recorded by Ryan Doumit, Neil Walker, Josh Harrison and James McDonald, all of whom were left at first base.
Astros’ closer Mark Melancon notched his 16th save of the season, striking out Ryan Doumit to end the game.
The Pirates (62-74) take on the Dodgers (65-70) Thursday afternoon at PNC Park, a make-up game previously scheduled for May 12th. Brad Lincoln (1-0) will take on Dana Eveland (0-0) with the first pitch scheduled for 4:05.