Astros Rally Past Pirates
HOUSTON – The Houston Astros lineup is filled with youngsters. On Monday night, a pair of veterans led the way.
Carlos Lee hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning, Wandy Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 and the Houston Astros rallied past the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4.
Trailing 3-2 in the seventh, a fielder’s choice grounder by J.D. Martinez tied the score and Lee extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his 14th homer off Jose Veras, putting the Astros ahead for the first time.
“I thought it was going to curve foul,” Lee said. “I guess when you are going good, good things happen. I’m seeing the ball really good. I feel I can cover every pitch and be on top of things.”
Rodriguez stumbled briefly in the fourth inning, allowing Pittsburgh to grab the lead.
Rodriguez struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and didn’t allow a hit until Josh Harrison led off the fourth with a double and Andrew McCutchen followed with his 19th homer.
“In the fourth inning my problem was I stayed behind in the count,” Rodriguez said. “I tried to throw a fastball for a strike and I put a few behind. Early in the game I tried to locate the fastball. Later it was the breaking ball.”
Neil Walker doubled and Ryan Doumit drove in the third run with a double. Rodriguez then walked Matt Diaz before finding his control again and striking out the next three.
Rodriguez (10-9) struck out the side twice, including the fourth. He went seven innings, walked four and allowed four hits. It was the 10th double-digit strikeout game of Rodriguez’s career. Rodriguez had fanned 11 batters previously on three occasions.
“He was getting strikesouts because he had good stuff,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “It was just trying to get him consistent. He really was fighting himself finding his rhythm. The last couple of innings he found it and really started throwing the ball well.”
Jason Grilli (1-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings. He allowed two earned runs and walked one. Juan Abreu struck out the first two batters of his major league debut for the Astros but then walked a batter and gave up an RBI triple to Ronny Cedeno in the ninth.
Mark Melancon got the final out for his 15th save in 20 chances.
An infield hit by Jose Altuve gave Houston its seventh run in the eighth.
Ross Ohlendorf, trying to rebound from four months on the disabled list, didn’t allow a hit until Martinez singled to left field with two outs in the fourth inning.
“I thought I saw some incremental improvement,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said about Ohlendorf. “There were more strikes thrown. There were more attempts working the ball in. I think the slider improved. He has to get the ball down with more consistency.
“I did see more comfort and better mound presence,” Hurdle added. “He wasn’t so antsy or amped up. I thought his tempo was better as well.”
After Lee walked in the fourth, Brian Bogusevic doubled to the left-field corner scoring Martinez. Jimmy Paredes then struck out to end the inning and keep the Pirates ahead 3-1.
Clint Barmes doubled to open the fifth and scored after two outs on a single by Jordan Schafer.
Ohlendorf pitched five innings, allowed five hits two earned runs and he struck out six and walked one.
“I felt much better than the last game,” Ohlendorf said. “It was the best I’ve felt in a while. I felt like my command was better. My slider felt really good. I think the most important thing was my fastball command was better than before. Some of it was a subconscious effort not to overthrow and let my arm work freely.”
Rodriguez was much stronger than his last start against Colorado on Aug. 24 amid talk that he was being traded to the Rockies. He allowed 10 hits, four earned runs over six innings with four walks and two strikeouts.
Rodriguez’s strikeout total was the most by an Astros pitcher since Bud Norris fanned 14 Pirates on Aug. 14, 2010.