Prized prospect Starling Marte homered on his first major league pitch and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to an early lead before holding on for a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
A.J. Burnett (12-3) shut out the Astros for seven innings before Chris Johnson and Carlos Corporan connected for solo homers in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-2, bringing Brad Lincoln out of the bullpen with one out.
Johnson hit a two-out RBI single off Joel Hanrahan in the ninth, but Hanrahan struck out Brian Bogusevic for his 30th save.
Pirates fans couldn't wait for Marte, who was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, to reach the majors and he didn't disappoint, taking rookie Dallas Keuchel's first pitch for a leadoff home run to left-center. Marte was promoted to improve the Pirates' production in left field, where Alex Presley and Drew Sutton have previously manned the position.
Garrett Jones added a two-run homer later in the first inning, and former Astro Clint Barmes had a two-run shot in the second to extend Pittsburgh's lead to 5-0.
The loss extends Houston's skid to a season-worst 10 games and the Astros, who own the league's worst record, have dropped 23 of their last 25 games.
Burnett allowed four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings to improve to 11-1 since a loss on May 2.
The 23-year-old Marte's second hit came on a single to left field in the fifth inning. He hit .286 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs in 98 games this season for Indianapolis.
He said before the game that when his minor league manager called him into the office Wednesday to inform him of his call-up, he tricked him by saying that he didn't run hard enough on a double that day and so he wasn't going to play him in the next game. He then quickly ended the joke by telling him he'd be playing for the Pirates instead.
Marte, who stole 21 bases this season in the minors, was caught stealing to end the fifth inning.
Keuchel (1-3) settled down after the first two innings, allowing just one hit and walking one in his last four innings. He gave up five hits and five runs in six innings.
Burnett didn't allow a hit until Corporan singled to left field with one out in the third. He walked Johnson with one out in the fifth, but didn't allow another hit until Scott Moore singled with one out in the seventh.
Burnett still faced the minimum in that inning after J.D. Martinez grounded into a double play.
NOTES: LHP Wandy Rodriguez, who was traded to Pittsburgh from Houston on Tuesday, will start against his former team Saturday. The Pirates moved starter Kevin Correia to the bullpen to make room in the rotation for Rodriguez. ... Pirates OF Gorkys Hernandez was optioned to Indianapolis to make room on the roster for Marte. ... The teams continue the series on Friday when Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens opposes Jordan Lyles.