Jeff Karstens (3-2, 3.52) vs Jordan Lyles (2-7, 5.50)
I... I feel sick. The Astros had leads of 3-0, 4-1, and 5-4. But, not content to let just one pitcher blow another 9th inning lead, Brad Mills used three pitchers in the 9th this time. The result was the same. 6-5 Pirates final - for the 3rd time in 4 games, Houston loses by blown save, and they tie a franchise record with their 11th consecutive loss overall. Now 34-67 in 2012.
*Jordan Lyles retired the first 10 Pittsburgh batters in order, before an Alex Presley homer in the 4th, and he pitched well overall until he was chased by a leadoff double in the 7th. Fernando Rodriguez came on and allowed the inherited runner to score, so Jordan's line finished at 6 IP / 7 H / 4 R / 4 ER / 0 BB / 8 K. Mills got creative in the 8th, bringing in Wesley Wright to start the inning, moving him to RF while Wilton Lopez pitched to the second batter, then Wright came back to the mound to finish the 8th and get the first out in the 9th. That's when the trouble started, as Rhiner Cruz couldn't get an out and loaded the bases on a single and two walks. Xavier Cedeno came on last, allowing the tying run on a sac fly and the winning run on a wild pitch, so he earned the distinction of a blown save while - officially - not allowing a run or a hit.
*Missed opportunities ultimately bit the Astros again, as the team was 2 for 14 with RISP and left 11 runners on base. They also struck out 12 times.
*Chris Johnson was a single short of the cycle, going 3 for 4 with a double, a triple, a homer, and a walk. He's now hitting .484 (15 for 31) over the last 8 games.
*J.D. Martinez also had 3 hits, going 3 for 5 with a run scored and a RBI.
*Ben Francisco was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, including a solo homer that was upheld after umpire review.
*Justin Maxwell was likewise 2 for 4, with a walk and a run scored.
*Houston's other hit belonged to Jose Altuve, who went 1 for 5 with a stolen base.
The above-mentioned 9th inning. Blown save, Astros lose. Again. Enough said.
Man of the Match:
Chris Johnson. He got the hardest 3/4 of the cycle and struck out in his last shot at the necessary single, but he's still swinging a red hot bat for Houston lately.
Goat of the Game:
Rhiner Cruz. Even though Cedeno officially got the blown save, he at least retired both batters he faced. If he had come on and done that after Wesley Wright left, without Cruz in between, then I would be writing about an Astros win.