Astros Escape from Pirates' Clutches with Series Win

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Astros Escape from Pirates' Clutches with Series Win
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Jeff Fulchino picked up his first career win and Humberto Quintero went 3-for-4 as the Houston Astros defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 in a battle of NL Central cellar dwellers.

 

The Astros (25-30) won their third series in a row and seventh of their last 10. Houston is a half game behind Pittsburgh for fifth in the division. The Astros went 5-2 on their home stand this week.

 

The Pirates (26-30) lost their second consecutive series to the Astros and fell to 11-19 on the road. Pittsburgh has gone 5-5 in its last 10 games.

 

The Astros got off to a rocky start. After Houston starter Felipe Paulino had a scoreless first inning, Andy LaRoche led off the second with a single. Jason Jaramillo drove in LaRoche with a one-out RBI double. Paulino struck out Ramon Vazquez but felt some pain after throwing one pitch to Ian Snell.

 

Paulino pitched only one and two-thirds innings before leaving the game, allowing three hits and one run. He struck out four.

 

Russ Ortiz relieved Paulino and pitched four and one-third scoreless innings. Ortiz allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three. It was the second time this season that Ortiz pitched four or more scoreless innings. The last time was May 24 against Texas.

 

Houston wasted no time in answering the Pirates' second-inning run. After Lance Berkman struck out and Carlos Lee was caught stealing, Geoff Blum doubled to right. Jeff Keppinger drove him in with an RBI single to right, tying the score.

 

The Astros took the lead in the fifth inning. After Blum flied out to right, Keppinger doubled to right. Quintero followed with a double, driving in Keppinger and giving the Astros a 2-1 lead.

 

Houston expanded its lead in the sixth inning. After Miguel Tejada grounded out to third, Hunter Pence walked on five pitches. Pence stole second and scored on Lee’s RBI single. Lee was tagged out in a run down trying to advance to second on Brandon Moss’ throw. Berkman followed with a double to right, but Blum flied out to end the inning.

 

Despite Ortiz’s solid outing, the Pirates would rob him of the win in the seventh. Jaramillo led off with a five-pitch walk, and Vazquez followed with a single off Tim Byrdak. Delwyn Young pinch-hit for Snell and singled to load the bases.

 

Astros manager Cecil Cooper pulled Byrdak and put in Fulchino. Fulchino got Andrew McCutchen to ground out, but Jarmillo scored to cut the Astros' lead to 3-2. Nyjer Morgan tied the game with an RBI single scoring Vazquez.

 

After Fulchino walked Freddy Sanchez on four pitches, LaRoche grounded into a double play. Berkman threw home and Quintero threw back to first.

 

The Astros took advantage of Berkman’s defensive play in the bottom of the seventh. After Keppinger grounded out to third, Quintero singled. Matt Kata pinch-hit for Fulchino and just reached first to avoid a double play.

 

Michael Bourn moved Kata to second, drawing a walk on four pitches. Tejada broke his O-fer with an infield single, when Vazquez was unable to get Bourn out at second. Kata scored on the play to give Houston the lead for good.

 

The Astros got insurance runs in the eighth. Jason Michaels pinch-hit for Chris Sampson and knocked in Lee with a double to right. Quintero drove in Berkman on his third hit of the game.

 

Quintero was the Astros' best hitter of the day, going 3-for-4 and driving in two runs. Berkman, Bourn, and Keppinger each went 2-for-4.

 

Despite blowing the save in the seventh, Fulchino ended up with the win. Fulchino pitched one inning allowing one hit and one walk. LaTroy Hawkins picked up his eighth save in his 10th attempt.

 

McCutchen led Pittsburgh in hitting, going 3-for-5 with one RBI. Morgan drove in two runs, and Jaramillo drove in one. LaRoche, Jaramillo, Vazquez and Eric Hinske scored the Pirates' runs.

 

Snell pitched six innings and gave up eight hits, three runs, one walk while striking out three. Steven Jackson was credited with his first major-league loss. Jackson pitched an inning and a third, giving up three hits, three runs and two walks.

 

The Astros have a day off on Monday and will close out the home stand with the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates conclude their road trip in Atlanta with a four-game series against the Braves.

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