by: Jim Colony

BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 The Fan) — The Pirates snapped a six-game Grapefruit League losing streak with an 8-6 win over their former divisional rivals, the Houston Astros at frosty McKechnie Field.

Game time temperature was announced as 52 degrees — right. That kept the crowd down, but it didn’t stop a sizeable flock of seagulls from invading the ballpark from the fifth inning on. The bird never interfered with play but the wind blew a high pop fly away from Clint Barmes that fell for a three-run double.

Starling Marte was not in the line-up so Jose Tabata led off and keyed a five-run fifth inning with a two-run double.

Andrew McCutchen walked three times and, after the first one, was caught stealing and it was not close.

But the Pirates threw out a base-stealer, Tony Sanchez to Walker who made a slick tag.

Walker, who was hitless coming into the game, went two-for-three including a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth inning and Sanchez had a bases-loaded walk and an RBI triple.

“A good day for Tony,” said manager Clint Hurdle.

With runners at first and third, DH Brad Hawpe was called out on inside pitch right over chalk of batter’s box; tough for a guy trying to make the club.

Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless inning and will head to the WBC representing Italy.

When asked if Grilli actually knows Italian, Hurdle said “You’d have to ask him but I think when it comes to ordering off a menu he does — you can be sure about that.”

A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez will both pitch tomorrow against the Phillies in Bradenton.