PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike McKenry and Pedro Alvarez drove in two runs apiece, and the Pittsburgh Pirates looked pretty comfortable during their first day in first place, beating the Houston Astros 6-4 on Wednesday.
Kevin Correia (5-6) won his third straight decision as the streaking Pirates moved nine games above .500 (45-36) for the first time since Barry Bonds was swinging for the fences at Three Rivers Stadium 20 years ago. Joel Hanrahan pitched the ninth for his 21st save. Garrett Jones added two hits for Pittsburgh, which has won seven of eight.
Houston rookie Dallas Keuchel (1-1) suffered his first major league loss, giving up four runs in 5 2-3 innings, more runs than he gave up in his first three starts combined.
J.D. Martinez hit his 10th homer for the Astros, while Scott Moore and Brian Bogusevic each had two hits, though it couldn’t stop Houston from dropping its seventh straight.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd that’s starting to believe the Pirates are ready to end two decades of losing, Pittsburgh didn’t disappoint.
The Pirates moved into a tie for first in the NL Central with Cincinnati on Tuesday night thanks to a dramatic walk-off home run by Drew Sutton. No such dramatics were needed on a stifling day at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh didn’t waste time giving Keuchel his first tough day in the big leagues.
The 24-year-old has been one of the few bright spots of late for Houston. The left-hander became the first Astros pitcher to allow one run or less in his first three starts with the club since Roger Clemens did it in 2004.
The magic disappeared against the Pirates.
The Astros jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the second against Correia, but Keuchel gave it right back. Casey McGehee – who moved from fifth to fourth in the batting order in a last-minute switch – led off with a single and Jones followed with a soft double to center. McKenry brought McGehee home on a sacrifice fly and Clint Barmes plated two with a bit of ingenuity.
The veteran shortstop singled to left, plating Jones to tie the game, then got caught drifting off first. The ensuing rundown lasted long enough for Alvarez to sprint home from third and give Pittsburgh the lead for good.
Perhaps frustrated by his team’s ineffectiveness in the field, Houston manager Brad Mills pulled center fielder Jordan Schafer after Schafer’s lackluster throw gave the plodding Jones a chance to turn a routine single into extra bases and give the Pirates a spark.
The Pirates pushed it to 4-2 on McKenry’s RBI-double in the fourth and it was just enough for Correia to beat a National League team for the first time at PNC Park. The 31-year-old was 0-10 at home against the NL since signing with Pittsburgh before the 2011 season, though he has insisted his woes are nothing more than an anomaly.
Having an offense among the hottest in baseball over the last month helps.
Andrew McCutchen went 1 for 3 to keep his NL-leading batting average at .360 and Alvarez continued to show signs that he’s developing into the elite slugger the franchise envisioned when it selected him with the fourth pick in the 2008 draft.
Alvarez had a two-run pinch-hit single during the comeback victory on Tuesday and his two-run single in the seventh gave the Pirates a cushion after the Astros pulled within 4-3.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)