The Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off a six-game road trip on Tuesday night by dropping their series opener at Minute Maid Park
For many years, Houston was a city the Pittsburgh Pirates would frequent often. After the Astros left the National League Central for the American League following the 2012 season this changed. In fact, Tuesday night was the first time the Pirates played their former divisional foes on the road since 2012.
Not only were the Pirates facing a former divisional rival on Tuesday night, they were also facing an old friend. Former staff ace Gerrit Cole started for the Astros and was facing his old team for the first time since being traded to Houston in January of 2017. Facing his old club, Cole looked like a man on a mission.
Led by Cole, the Astros defeated the Pirates 5-1 on Tuesday night. This loss snapped the team’s four game winning streak. It also dropped the Bucs to 36-41 overall on the season.
In the 1st inning the Pirates looked like they may have been able to get to Cole. Kevin Newman led the game off with a base hit to extend his hitting streak to 15 consecutive games. After Cole missed badly with two pitches, Corey Dickerson found himself ahead in the count 3-1. However, Newman was caught stealing and Dickerson struck out. Cole then retired Starling Marte to end the inning.
For the Pirates, Trevor Williams opposed Cole and pitched a fine game himself. After posting zeroes in the first 3 innings of his night, Williams allowed a 2-run home run to Yuli Gurriel in the 4th inning. The home run was a great piece of hitting by Gurriel on a pitch that was up and in. HE managed to not just hit the ball hard, but keep it fair and give the Astros a 2-0 lead.
After Cole cruised for a few innings, the Pirates would threaten in the 5th.
Jose Osuna singled with one out and Elias Diaz drew a four pitch walk. Adam Frazier was then able to work a 3-2 count before flying out to the warning track in left field. Newman was also able to work a 3-2 count, before he went down swinging to end the inning.
Corey Dickerson doubled to lead off the 6th inning and moved to second base on a ground out by Marte. Then with two outs, Melky Cabrera singled home to Dickerson to cut the Astro lead to 2-1. After Colin Moran singled off of Cole with two outs, Osuna walked to load the bases. However, Cole got Diaz to ground out to end the inning.
More from Rum Bunter
- Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Stockwatch: Outfielder Tres Gonzalez
- Pittsburgh Pirates Podcast: Rum Bunter Radio Talks Winter Meetings Fallout
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Leadoff Hitters in 2023
- Pittsburgh Pirates: The Rotation is not being Improved
- Pittsburgh Pirates Make Vince Velasquez Signing Official
This brought Cole’s night to an end. In 6 innings of work Cole allowed just 1 run on six hits, two walks, and he struck out just three. While Cole was amped up to face his old team, the Pirates did a good job of making him work and getting him out of the game after 6 innings.
By the way, Moran was 2-for-3 with a double off of Cole. So, the Pirates 100% won the trade. It’s indisputable. Moran OWNS Cole.
After the Pirates got on the board, the Astros got the run right back.
Alex Bregman crushed a home run to lead off the bottom of the 6th inning. Bregman took advantage of a missed location by Williams to make the score 3-1 Astros. Williams then rallied to retire the next three Houston hitters.
The Astros added a 4th run off of Williams on a Robinson Chirinos sacrifice fly in the 7th inning. With two outs in the inning Williams night came to an end. In 6 2/3 innings of work Williams allowed 4 runs on eight hits, he did not walk a batter, he allowed two home runs, and he struck out four.
All in all Williams pitched better than his final line. The Gurriel home run came on a great pitcher’s pitch and there are few hitters in baseball that could have even hit that ball fair let alone for a home run. This was a strong bounce back start from Williams after he struggled in his first start after coming off the injured list.
Texas native Clay Holmes took over in the 9th inning. With a runner on first base and no one out he recorded a strikeout. However, this was followed back a pair of wild pitches to put the Houston runner on third base. Yordany Alvarez then drove the runner in to make the score 5-1 Houston.
After a walk and a catchers interference loaded the bases, Holmes recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. This sent the game to the 9th inning with the Astros leading 5-1.
Returning from the injured list, Colin McHugh pitched for the Astros in the 9th inning. Outside of a two out single by Diaz, McHugh was able to silence the Pirate bats en route to finishing off the 5-1 Astro victory.
Tuesday night started 16 game stretch before the All-Star Break that could make or break the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs entered the game owning a 36-40 record, which put them 6 games out of first place in the NL Central and 4 games out in the NL Wild Card race.
These 16 games before the break come against the Astros, Brewers, and Cubs, three teams that are likely to head to the postseason. If the Pirates can even tread water during this stretch and go 8-8, they put themselves in position to make a run after the break as they keep getting healthier. If things go haywire, it will be time to figure who will and will not be available at the July 31st trade deadline.
The second game of the series is scheduled for 8:10 on Wednesday night. Dario Agrazal (4.50 ERA, 2.44 FIP) will make his second career start for the Pirates. Lefty Framber Valdez (3.61 ERA, 3.99 FIP) will toe the rubber for the Astros.