Myers, Astros run afoul of Pirates in 5-3 loss

Published 9:59 pm Monday, July 4, 2011

Brett Myers felt as though he made good pitches. Plenty of them.

Not good enough to shut down the feisty Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League’s most surprising team.

Rookie Alex Presley had three of Pittsburgh’s 14 hits and the Pirates moved three games over .500 this late in the season for the first time in 12 years with a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros on Monday.

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Myers (3-8) allowed five runs — four earned — with no walks and one strikeout in six innings.

“Balls were hit on the ground; they were right to the holes,” Myers said.

“I guess that’s the way it’s going. I felt like I made good pitches and they were just finding holes and making me work deep into counts.”

A day after matching a season high for hits with 16, the Pirates had 13 hits off Myers — the most he’s allowed in 234 career starts.

“He didn’t walk anybody, but they seemed to put the ball in play on him and kept fouling him off and fouling him off and kept getting the pitch count up,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “But he battled all the way through and gave us those six innings, and gave us that chance.”

Chase d’Arnaud, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker and Lyle Overbay each had two hits for Pittsburgh, which played in front of its fourth consecutive home sellout crowd — another sign of how rare it is for the Pirates to be in contention.

Paul Maholm (5-9) allowed one earned run in six innings for the Pirates, who entered the day having not been less than two games from a division lead this late in a season since 1997.

“They fought, they battled,” Astros outfielder Michael Bourn said. “They were swinging the bats good today. He was still making good pitches and making it hard for them to capitalize but you know, they capitalized on a couple opportunities. They were able to take the lead and they held it down from there.”

Jeff Keppinger had two hits and scored two runs and Hunter Pence went 2 for 3 to extend his hitting streak to nine games for the Astros, who have lost four consecutive, nine of 10 and 12 of 14.

They have the majors’ worst record — a distinction that last season belonged to the Pirates. But Pittsburgh is 14 games better than it was at this point of 2010. The Pirates have won three of four and nine of 13.

“It’s fun, but we need to continue to play well,” Maholm said. “In September, it will be a lot more fun. For any of us who have been here, it’s uncharted waters, but you’re seeing a group that’s having fun and likes playing in front of big crowds. Today was cool. These were all Pirates’ fans and you had 10,000 military personnel here, too. It was really a special day.”

Pittsburgh scored more runs Monday than it had in all but two of the previous 17 starts by Maholm, who allowed five hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Maholm has won four of his past six decisions, lowering his ERA to 3.08.

Daniel McCutchen, Jose Veras and Joel Hanrahan each followed with a scoreless inning of relief. Named an All-star on Sunday, Hanrahan worked a perfect ninth to improve to 25 for 25 in save opportunities, a Pirates record for most consecutive converted save opportunities. It also tied the team mark for most saves prior to the All-star break.

With the game tied at 3 in the fifth, Walker singled to right, scoring d’Arnaud. Presley’s two-out triple in the sixth scored Brandon Wood to make it 5-3.

Those runs came after the Pirates had rallied to tie Houston twice after trailing 1-0 and 3-1.

Houston’s two-run third came the result of three Pittsburgh errors, but the Pirates tied it the following half inning when d’Arnaud doubled and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s double. Overbay then drove McCutchen in with a single.

NOTES: Before the game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle criticized those involved with the selection process for next week’s All-star game for not including McCutchen. “I think everybody whiffed on this one,” Hurdle said. McCutchen’s .904 on base-plus-slugging percentage ranked fifth among NL outfielders heading into Monday. … Pirates 3B Josh Harrison left the game after the third inning due to dizziness. He had collided with Astros C Carlos Corporan at home plate in the second. Harrison was being administered post-concussion tests Monday. … The crowd of 36,942 ensured the first time the Pirates sold out four consecutive games in the history of 11-year-old PNC Park.