Published July 29, 2012
| Associated Press
HOUSTON – The Houston Astros are now officially in the worst slump in the club's 50-year history.
Rod Barajas hit a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied past Houston 4-3 Saturday night, sending the Astros to their club-record 12th straight loss.
Wandy Rodriguez pitched six innings in his Pittsburgh debut, allowing three runs and six hits with five walks against his former team. He struck out five. The free-falling Astros, who have lost 25 of 27, traded the left-hander to the Pirates on Tuesday for three minor leaguers.
Houston manager Brad Mills refused to pin the blame on the team's inexperience.
"We can sit here and probably try to pick things apart as best we can on all kinds of issues," Mills said. "But we've been facing some good pitchers in tough situations. I think we saw Wandy pitch like that many times for us."
Houston called up Armando Galarraga to make his first major league start since May 16, 2011, with Arizona. He allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits with five strikeouts in five-plus innings.
Galarraga had a wild 48 hours leading up to his start. His wife gave birth to their first child Friday night in Austin, and Galarraga made the three-hour drive to Houston on Saturday before his start.
"I don't want to lie to you guys, I'm super tired," Galarraga said. "But I had an exciting moment last night, and it was a very exciting feeling to pitch again tonight."
Galarraga received a soft ovation when he was relieved by Wesley Wright in the top of the sixth inning, with a 3-2 lead in hand.
"I need to show I can pitch again and contribute," Galarraga said. "There are a lot of new people and new faces around here with all the changes, but we need to keep it together and pitch well."
Justin Maxwell played down facing Rodriguez.
"I tried not to think about it," Maxwell said. "He's got good stuff and the Pirates wanted him for a reason. I tried not to make eye contact and just play the game. We all played behind him so we know the kind of stuff he's got."
Barajas single in the eighth inning ended the Pirates' 0-for-17 streak with runners in scoring position.
Walker put Pittsburgh up 2-1 in the fourth with a solo home run to right field.
Maxwell put the Astros on top 3-2 in the fifth with a two-run triple off the right-field wall. That scored Jose Altuve and Matt Downs, who hit back-to-back singles to start the inning.
Pittsburgh tied it at 3 in the sixth when Garrett Jones scored on a passed ball, but squandered an opportunity for more after loading the bases with no outs. Pedro Alvarez hit a dribbler and Carlos Corporan stepped on the plate before throwing to first for a double play. After the passed ball, Barajas popped up to end the inning.
Presley gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead with a one-out homer to right off Galarraga. Jones hit a two-out triple to deep center that Maxwell initially caught but dropped after tripping on Tal's Hill, but Galarraga escaped further damage in the first by getting Walker to fly out.
Corporan tied the game at 1 with a single off Rodriguez that scored Maxwell, who led off the inning with a walk.
Chris Resop (1-3) earned the win with a scoreless seventh. Brad Lincoln pitched the eighth and Jason Grilli earned his second save.
Chuckie Fick (0-1) gave up a run and two hits in his first appearance with the Astros since being claimed off waivers Friday.
The loss marked the fifth consecutive time the Astros lost by a margin of two runs or less. Houston's previous record of 11 consecutive losses in a season was set in 1995.
"It's tough to lose any game," Maxwell said. "But it shows the kind of talent we have. We're breaking through, and as long as we don't let down mentally and keep grinding, we'll be fine."
NOTES: Houston claimed INF Steve Pearce off waivers from Baltimore. Pearce will report to the Astros on Sunday. ... The Astros optioned LHP Fernando Abad to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Galarraga. They also sent RHPs Enerio Del Rosario and Aneury Rodriguez outright to Oklahoma City. ... The Pirates have homered in 18 straight road games. ... Pittsburgh will start RHP James McDonald (10-4, 3.15 ERA) in the finale of the four-game series Sunday against RHP Lucas Harrell (7-7, 4.07).