PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Pirates starting pitcher James McDonald started off in a precarious position, walking three batters in the first inning and allowing a run for a 1-0 Houston lead.

That was just about the only uncomfortable moment of the night, though, as the Pittsburgh (43-36) lineup hammered out 18 hits en route to an 11-2 blowout victory.

The win puts the Pirates a half game behind the Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL Central.

The Bucco assault started in the bottom of the fourth inning when Garrett Jones and Neil Walker hit back-to-back home runs off the right field foul pole for a 3-1 lead. Casey McGehee followed with a double off the Clemente Wall in right field and Clint Barmes drove him in with a single to center field for a 4-1 advantage.

Pittsburgh poured it on again in the fifth. Drew Sutton hit a lead off triple and Andrew McCutchen and Jones followed with RBI doubles for a 6-1 lead. McGehee later hit a double of his own to score two more.

In the sixth, Jones beat out an infield single that scored Alex Presley and the Pirates’ lead grew to 9-1.

Walker capped off the night with a two-run double double off the Clemente Wall for an 11-2 win.

McDonald (8-3, 2.45 ERA) pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on four hits while striking out four and walking five. Astros (32-48) starter Jordan Lyles lasted just four innings, as he surrendered seven runs on nine hits including two home runs.

The 1-6 batters in Pittsburgh’s lineup each had two hits or more, including a four-hit night from both McCutchen and Jones.

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