Fifth loss in row adds to Pirates' struggles
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HOUSTON -- A pitcher named Dallas looked like a star in Houston.
After two forgettable starts against the Pirates this season, Dallas Keuchel shut down the Pirates, allowing one earned run on four hits in seven innings as the Astros beat the Pirates, 4-1, Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Pirates (74-77).
Keuchel, a left-hander who made his major league debut in June, was 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA against the Pirates this season. But he looked sharp Saturday night, striking out five with one walk. He became the most recent unheralded pitcher to make the Pirates look ordinary at the plate.
As a team, the Pirates are hitting .232 in September and rank 23rd in the major leagues in run production.
Keuchel entered the game with two career wins and a 4.97 ERA, which dropped to 4.66.
Starter Kevin Correia, who has been the team's most consistent pitcher the past several weeks, was the loser after a solid outing fell apart in the seventh.
Having allowed one earned run on five hits through six innings, Correia allowed a single to Jed Lowrie to lead off the seventh. Clint Barmes committed an error on a Matt Dominguez ground ball that put runners on first and second with no outs.
Jason Castro gave the Astros (50-102) a three-run lead by sending a 2-1 changeup from Correia sailing toward the right-field foul pole. Garrett Jones tried to make a leaping grab on the ball, but it ended up over the wall. So, too, did Jones' glove.
Errors were a theme for the Pirates, who committed three in the game.
Correia allowed three earned runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out nine, which tied a career high he previously reached twice.
Andrew McCutchen, who is in a race with Buster Posey for the National League batting title, went 0 for 4 and his average dropped to .336.
Gaby Sanchez tied the score, 1-1, with a solo home run in the second.
Sanchez waited on an 0-1 changeup and crushed it off of the arches in left field. It was his seventh home run of the season and his fourth since joining the Pirates at the trade deadline.
The Astros grabbed an early lead off Correia, marking the fifth consecutive game the Pirates have allowed a first-inning run.
Scott Moore doubled off the left-field wall with one out and scored when the next batter, Brett Wallace, singled on a ground ball up the middle.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was ejected in the second while arguing a ruling on the field. Michael McKenry hit a dribbler toward first. Houston first baseman Brett Wallace fielded the ball and flipped it to Keuchel, who was covering the bag. Keuchel missed the bag but appeared to tag McKenry on the hand.
First-base umpire Tim Timmons initially ruled McKenry safe, which drew Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco out of the dugout in protest. After the umpires conferred, they ruled McKenry out. That drew objections from Hurdle, who was quickly tossed.
It was Hurdle's fifth ejection this season.
First Published September 23, 2012 12:26 am