Adam LaRoche hits 3-run homer in 15th and Pirates beat Astros 8-3

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HOUSTON (AP)—Before the game, Pittsburgh’s Adam LaRoche told friends on the Astros that they were going to play 18 innings.

If not for his big hit in the 15th, they might have.

LaRoche’s three-run homer triggered a five-run 15th inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Houston 8-3 on Friday night to move ahead of the Astros and out of the cellar in the NL Central.

“I was having flashbacks of an 18-inning game we played here two years ago,” LaRoche said of a game he played while with the Atlanta Braves. “Me and Lance Berkman each hit grand slams in that one and Chris Burke won it with a homer.

“I was joking with Lance and (Brad) Ausmus that we would do this. I kept saying, ‘Trust me, we’re going to play 18 today. I can feel it.”’

Instead, Nate McLouth walked and stole second and Freddy Sanchez reached on third baseman Mike Lamb’s error to start the rally and set up LaRoche’s 19th homer.

The shot barely went out into the right corner of the Crawford boxes in short left field.

“I didn’t think it was out,” LaRoche said. “My bat felt like it weighed 45 ounces at that point. I knew I hit it all right but I also knew they were playing back so I thought they’d catch it.

“But it just found that little corner.”

Carlos Maldonado added a sacrifice fly to drive in another run and Jose Castillo had an RBI single to make it 8-3.

The Pirates have won three straight and seven of nine and moved out of last place in the Central by three percentage points ahead of the Astros.

Reliever Shane Youman (3-4) pitched the last two innings for Pittsburgh. It was only his third relief appearance of the year after seven starts. In the bottom of the 15th, Youman loaded the bases with no outs and then struck out the side.

“I can’t ask anybody to do any more than they all did tonight,” manager Jim Tracy said. “There were so many different big moments.

“The at-bat by LaRoche in the 15th was so big because it was for three runs. I knew the way Shane was, it might have been tough if that’s all we got. So the two more runs were big.”

Only two of the 15th inning runs were earned off of reliever Travis Driskill (0-1) who pitched three innings. Driskill was making his first appearance in the majors this year. His contract was purchased Wednesday from Triple-A Round Rock.

In the top of the 13th, Lamb’s dazzling play at third helped the Astros stay alive. With one out and a man on first, Jose Bautista hit a hard line drive that Lamb made a diving stop on. From his knees, Lamb tossed to second baseman Burke, who completed the double play to end the inning.

Pinch-hitter Xavier Nady hit his 17th home run of the year to tie the game with two out in the top of the ninth off Brad Lidge. It was the sixth blown save of the year for Lidge.

“I think I’ve said it more than my fair share this year: we had a lot of chances and missed them,” manager Phil Garner said. “We didn’t make contact a few times. We just didn’t make it happen.”

Lidge thought the pitch to Nady was good.

“He’s a good hitter and that enters my mind,” Lidge said. “The way I’ve been throwing and the way the first couple of hitters went, I wasn’t thinking about anything but going after him.

“He’s just a good hitter. It wasn’t necessarily a bad pitch, but he reached out there and got it.”

Matt Albers allowed two runs, one earned, and six hits with no walks and six strikeouts in seven innings.

Ian Snell went seven innings and gave up three runs and six hits with a walk.

LaRoche staked the Pirates to a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single, scoring McLouth.

The Pirates stretched it to 2-0 in the second after Bautista doubled to lead off the inning. One out later, Jack Wilson’s liner skipped through the glove of diving first baseman Berkman, allowing Bautista to score.

In the bottom of the second, the Astros loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Carlos Lee, Lamb and Luke Scott. Eric Munson’s sacrifice fly to left drove in Lee for the only run Houston got out of that.

It was the only real trouble Snell was in the first six innings. After the three straight singles in the second, he retired 15 of the next 16 with only a walk to Lee spoiling the string.

But in the eighth, Lee and Lamb had a single and double respectively and one out later Mark Loretta drove in the tying run with a ground out. Munson then drove in Lamn with a single for a 3-2 lead.


It was Nady’s second pinch-hit homer of his career. His first was April 13 this year against San Francisco. Brandon Backe, who had Tommy John surgery last year and has missed the entire season, pitched six scoreless innings in a rehab start with Triple-A Round Rock at Omaha on Thursday. He is expected to return to the team Sept. 1. … Pittsburgh has won seven of its last eight road games.

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