Pirates fall to Astros, 4-2, after 11 innings

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Matt Dominguez's ground ball in the 11th inning wasn't hit very hard, but it was all the Houston Astros needed.

Dominguez drove in the go-ahead run and would later score an insurance run, sending the Pirates to a 4-2 loss Saturday night at PNC Park.

The loss broke the Pirates' four-game winning streak and evened the series with the Astros, the worst team in the American League, at a game apiece.

Jason Castro led off the 11th with a double off of Bryan Morris. Chris Carter popped out, and the Pirates intentionally walked Carlos Pena. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Dominguez hit a grounder to Neil Walker, who threw home, but Castro slid in before the tag.

"You get the infield in, that's all I'm asking for, is getting a ground ball to get myself a chance to either get him out at home or get him not to go," Morris said.

Manager Clint Hurdle immediately argued the call with home-plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, who eventually ejected Hurdle.

"I thought we were able to get an out," Hurdle said. "I went inside, and the ump made the right call. He made a good call."

Pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez's single scored another run.

Mark Melancon allowed the Astros to tie the score in the eighth. Consecutive singles by Trevor Crowe and Jose Altuve put Melancon in a bind quickly. A groundout sent Crowe to third, and Carter's single scored the first run off Melancon since April 14 and tied the score at 2-2.

The Astros were able to tie the score because the Pirates did not push across more runs in the sixth or seventh innings. They put four runners on base in the sixth and scored only one run. In the seventh, they loaded the bases but couldn't score.

"We had chances to create separation where, you give up one run in the eighth, it doesn't tie the game," Hurdle said. "We had at-bats that we weren't able to capitalize on to create that separation."

Morris (1-2) was the loser. Jose Cisnero (1-0) earned the win with 32/3 scoreless innings of relief and Jose Veras earned his sixth save.

Altuve, who returned from the bereavement list before the game, went 3 for 5 with an RBI. Castro and Carter each went 2 for 5.

Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 4 with two doubles. Brandon Inge had two hits, one of them giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the sixth.

A.J. Burnett pitched seven innings of one-run ball. He struck out seven, but walked four. In four starts this month, Burnett has pitched seven innings each time and allowed a total of seven earned runs. His ERA dropped to 2.57.

"Pat Hentgen once said --and [Roy] Halladay always reminds me, if I don't go seven he'll text me -- 'Don't expect to win if you don't go seven,' " Burnett said. "As a starter, a lot of guys look at the quality starts, six innings, this and that, that's fine and dandy. But [you] want to go seven, eight."

Burnett led the National League in strikeouts entering the game. He had 72, four more than the New York Mets' Matt Harvey and five more than the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. Burnett's 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings also led the NL.

He has 79 strikeouts in 63 innings this season.

"He's always been able to strike guys out, so this isn't new," Hurdle said before the game. "The rate right now is significant."

Burnett faced an Astros team that had struck out more than any other team in the major leagues. Houston struck out on 26.7 percent of its plate appearances this season, also the worst in the majors.

Astros starter Erik Bedard completed his longest start this season, allowing two runs on seven hits in six innings. He did not walk a batter.

In six previous starts this season, Bedard had not pitched more than five innings and completed five innings only once.

In 24 starts for the Pirates a year ago, Bedard provided the coaching staff with plenty of data from which to formulate a game plan. He signed a minor league contract with the Astros in January and faced the Pirates Saturday for the first time in his career.

Bedard entered the game with an 11.91 road ERA, compared to a 2.87 ERA at Minute Maid Park. He had a 3.26 ERA last season at PNC Park.


• Game: Pirates vs. Houston Astros, PNC Park.

• When: 1:35 p.m.

• TV: Root Sports

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 19, 2013 3:15 AM


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