Offense comes to the rescue
Andrew McCutchen collides with the Astros' Carlos Lee as he reaches first base on a throwing error by pitcher Aneury Rodriguez in the 11th inning Sunday in Houston.
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HOUSTON -- Closer Joel Hanrahan has been "Mr. Automatic" for the Pirates this year, but even he showed Sunday against the Houston Astros he isn't perfect as he blew his first save of the season.
Despite that, the Pirates again showed they can win games when relying on a lot of different players.
And that was the most satisfying part of the Pirates' 7-5 win in 11 innings before a crowd of 24,580 at Minute Maid Park -- it was a complete team effort.
"It took every one of us in here to win this game," manager Clint Hurdle said. "These guys are all human. [Hanrahan] got a pitch to Johnson in a spot where Johnson could drive it. The runners are moving on the pitch -- it happens, and it is going to happen.
"He responded professionally the next inning to shut him down. Everybody did what they needed to do today. It was a good team win, a good way to win the series and move on."
Game: Pirates vs. Reds, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV/radio: Root Sports; WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: RHP James McDonald (5-4, 4.42 ERA) vs. LHP Dontrelle Willis (0-0, 3.00 ERA).
Key matchup: Andrew McCutchen vs. Willis. McCutchen is a legitimate star regardless of who pitches, but he is especially tough on left-handers. He is hitting .330 against left-handers with five home runs in 88 at-bats. He is hitting .270 against right-handers.
Hidden stat: McDonald has won five of his past seven decisions.
The win left the Pirates tied with the Cardinals in second place in the National League Central, one-half game behind Milwaukee.
Hanrahan entered in the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead, two outs, one on and third baseman Chris Johnson at the plate.
But Johnson drove a ball to the right-field wall, scoring Jeff Keppinger from first to tie the score.
It was Hanrahan's first blown save this season, and it denied him the opportunity to set a club record by recording his 29th consecutive save.
"To be honest, if he doesn't swing, it was ball four," Hanrahan said. "So it wasn't like it was grooved or anything. He went down there and got it and got it into a gap. It is going to happen.
"But fortunately, we were able to keep it at a tie game, and the guys battled, the guys came in the bullpen and did their job.
"I really wouldn't attribute it to anything other than he hit the ball. The important thing is we got the win."
After Johnson tied the score, Hanrahan closed the inning with a strikeout, then pitched a scoreless ninth before giving way to Chris LeRoux (1-0), who pitched a scoreless 10th and got his first career win.
In the 11th, the Pirates took advantage of two errors and a passed ball to score three runs and take a 7-4 lead.
Alex Presley, who was 3 for 6 with three RBIs, delivered what turned out to be the winning run with a one-out single that scored Xavier Paul from second.
Presley was mired in a 1-for-11 slump before he finally broke through in the fourth with a two-out single that scored Brandon Wood for the Pirates' third run.
Two innings later, Presley gave the Pirates a 4-3 lead with a two-out double to right that drove in Wood, who had doubled earlier in the inning.
Hurdle said he was impressed by the way Presley fought off two-strike counts three times in a row to deliver big hits.
"I think there was some toughness involved in [Presley's day] because it was a tough strike zone to get a read on today," Hurdle said. "There were high strikes, some low strikes, so he was in a situation where the zone was big for him.
"He got into those two-strike situations early but he responded with three RBI, big hits every time. He took a little slide yesterday, but he got the hits today. It is hard, it is the big leagues, it is going to happen."
Presley said he was happy to get some hits because he had struggled so mightily in the first two games of the series.
"It was a day I had to battle at the plate big time. I had a tough time the first couple of bats but made some adjustments, but I was able to put some barrels on the ball and drive in some runs. That is going to happen. It is part of it. It is going to happen again. You just can't get discouraged. You have to forget about yesterday and battle through it."
After the Pirates took the lead in the 11th, Chris Resop came in and earned his first career save, though he did give up a solo homer to Humberto Quintero.
Starter Kevin Correia (11-7) had a very workmanlike effort as he worked six innings and allowed five hits and three earned runs.
Still, he started off shaky as Keppinger hit a two-out double in the first inning, and Hunter Pence made it 1-0 when he singled and drove Keppinger in.
Correia helped his own cause with a two-out double that drove in Lyle Overbay and Eric Fryer to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
But Keppinger again proved to be a thorn in Correia's side in the third when he drove a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall for a two-run homer and a 3-2 lead.
The homer followed a heated argument between Houston manager Brad Mills, who was ejected, and home-plate umpire Eric Cooper as Keppinger was ahead in the count 3-0 but took two consecutive strikes -- both of which the Astros' bench objected to loudly.
First Published July 18, 2011 12:00 am