Astros rally in eighth for 6-4 win over Pirates
At second base with the Houston Astros down by one in the eighth inning, Hunter Pence decided to take a chance.
He swiped third base and later scored on a fielder's choice to tie it up and the Astros added two more runs in the inning to get a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
''I was fortunate to time that right,'' Pence said of the steal. ''With the way things are going, sometimes just being aggressive and taking a shot and seeing what happens (works) and it happened to work out for us.''
After Pence scored, Clint Barmes reached on an error by Brandon Wood when his grounder bounced off the third baseman's glove and into the outfield to leave runners at the corners with one out.
Humberto Quintero's knock to shallow left field off Jose Veras (2-3) sent one home to give Houston the lead. Michael Bourn added an insurance run with his two out, RBI single off Chris Leroux that made it 6-4.
Sergio Escalona (2-1) struck out two in a scoreless eighth before Houston closer Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save.
It was Melancon's first save since June 8 against St. Louis.
''We haven't had a whole lot of those especially recently, and it was sure nice to see him do real well,'' Houston manager Brad Mills said of Melancon.
The Astros led 3-0 after three innings, thanks to a two-run homer by Jeff Keppinger. But the Pirates rallied behind a home run by Neil Walker in the fifth and consecutive homers by Lyle Overbay and Wood in a three-run sixth inning.
Walker had a season-high four hits and homered for the first time since June 5 to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
After Pence walked in the eighth inning, he advanced to second on a groundout by Carlos Lee. He stole third base and scored when he slid in behind catcher Michael McKenry when Brett Wallace reached on a fielder's choice to tie it at 4-4.
''I was trying to get a good jump and I was just like: `Let's make them make a play here,''' Pence said of his score. ''That was just kind of my mindset and fortunately I was able to get in there.''
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle rushed out to home plate and argued the call for a couple of minutes before retreating to the dugout.
''I thought he had him out at home,'' Hurdle said. ''Grounder to short, throw was on line, and I thought the tag was made before he hit the plate.''
McKenry talked about how aggressive Pence was on the run home.
''He was going on contact, the ball took one too many bounces,'' he said. ''It was a close play, the umpire had a tough angle, and there you go. I thought he was actually going to annihilate me. But I thought I was there, he slid in good, and that was that.''
Bourn finished with three hits and Keppinger had a double to go along with his home run to help the Astros snap a five-game losing skid and win for just the second time this month.
Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm yielded three runs and a season-high-tying nine hits in five innings.
Houston starter Bud Norris allowed nine hits and four runs - including a season-high three home runs - with five strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings.
Lee doubled in the second inning before a single by Jason Michaels. Lee scored on a passed ball to put Houston up 1-0.
Norris walked Wood with one out in the second inning before a single by McKenry. Maholm reached on an error by Norris on a force attempt to load the bases. Norris pitched out of that jam by retiring the next two Pirates to end the inning.
Bourn singled in the third inning, but was caught trying to steal second base. Angel Sanchez walked to set up Keppinger's homer to left field that extended Houston's lead to 3-0.
Norris had retired nine of the previous 11 he faced before Walker's shot to right field that cut Houston's lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning.
Overbay's solo home run in the sixth inning got Pittsburgh within 3-2. He hit a line drive to right field on a full count on the eighth pitch of the at bat. Wood tied it up on the next at-bat with his home run that bounced high on the wall in center field.
McKenry doubled before Chase d'Arnaud's two-out single chased Norris.
Walker's single to center field scored McKenry to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead. Houston finally got out of the sixth inning when Andrew McCutchen hit a fly ball to Pence.
NOTES: Pittsburgh OF Jose Tabata, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a left quadriceps strain did not play on Friday or Saturday in his rehabilitation assignment with Single-A Bradenton after experiencing tightness in his quad during Thursday's game. He has been re-evaluated and is OK and is expected to go through a full workout on Sunday. ... Houston OF Jason Bourgeois (right quadriceps strain) is scheduled to play to play at least two rehabilitation games for Double-A Corpus Christi and will probably play three games at the Triple-A level before he returns to the Astros.