Jason Bay homered for the fourth consecutive game and drove in four runs, and the Pirates had a season-high 16 hits in beating Houston 12-5 Friday night, the Astros’ fourth consecutive loss.
Pirates rookie Ronny Paulino, enjoying a much better game than the opposing catcher did against the Astros the day before, had his first four-hit game in the majors. Craig Wilson and Jose Castillo also homered during a three-homer fourth inning against Taylor Buchholz (3-4), who shut out the Pirates for 8 2-3 innings the last time he opposed them.
“We made mistakes tonight, and they absolutely pounded them,” Garner said of his defending NL champions, losers of eight of 11 overall and 10 of 12 on the road. “That’s been a problem the last few series, we haven’t been able to get the ball where we wanted to. … It’s a mystery because we’re better than that, but we’re in a rotten rut right now.”
The Astros lost 8-5 Thursday in Washington, despite stealing seven bases— forcing Nationals manager Frank Robinson to pull backup catcher Matthew LeCroy in the middle of an inning. Afterward, Robinson got teary-eyed explaining why he had to yank his catcher.
On Friday night, the Astros never could get the opposing catcher out.
Paulino wasn’t on the Pirates’ season-opening roster and wasn’t expected to make an impact this season, but has won the everyday job by playing well defensively and batting .310. He doubled in the Pirates’ first run in the second, then had three consecutive singles.
“I felt good at the plate,” Paulino said. “My primary job is to work with the pitcher, but I know I can hit.”
So can Bay, who got off to a relatively slow start—he was hitting .250 on May 3—but has 25 RBIs in 13 games and has jumped his average to .304.
Bay had a run-scoring single in the third as the Pirates began to rally from a 4-1 deficit, then followed with a three-run drive in the seven-run fourth that put the Pirates up 8-4. Bay has eight homers in 32 at-bats in eight games, including two two-homer games, and is the first Pirate to homer in four consecutive game since Barry Bonds from Aug. 18-21, 1987.
“This is the first time this has happened to me at any level,” Bay said. “It’s getting a little surreal. I’m starting to pinch myself. You always want to manage the cold streaks and ride the hot streaks, and hopefully this one will last a while.”
The Pirates had lost six of seven and were coming off yet another terrible road trip—they are 4-22 away from PNC Park—but they didn’t look like a team off to its worst start (15-33) in 52 years. Or one that is 4-14 in one-run games.
Buchholz, who grew up near Philadelphia and had plenty of family members in the stands, was coming off a career-first 5-0 shutout of the Texas Rangers on Sunday but quickly gave away a three-run lead supplied by Morgan Ensberg’s 17th homer.
Jeromy Burnitz doubled ahead of Castillo’s third homer, tying it at 4, and Freddy Sanchez had a run-scoring grounder before Bay hit his 14th homer. Wilson followed Bay’s drive with his ninth homer, bringing on reliever Mike Gallo.
Buchholz, who got his first career victory against Pittsburgh on April 22, saw his ERA climb from 4.35 to 5.57. He gave up 11 hits and nine runs in 3 2-3 innings.
“I got behind a bunch of guys and left same fat pitches right over the middle and they hit them pretty good,” Buchholz said. “It’s part of being a rookie, you take your ups and downs.”
All those runs allowed Pirates starter Ian Snell (4-3) to last 5 2-3 innings, despite giving up 10 hits and five runs. He has won four of his last five decisions despite lasting fewer than six innings four times.
The Astros had won their last six against Pittsburgh. … They are 7-15 away from Houston. … Pirates 1B Sean Casey went 0-for-3 during the first game of a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Altoona. He hadn’t played since breaking two bones in his back April 14. … The Pirates had 15 hits in a game twice this season.