Jimmy Paredes was charged with an error that allowed the winning run to score with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates slipped past the Houston Astros, 5-4, in the opener of a three-game interleague set at PNC Park.
With Houston's Edgar Gonzalez (0-1) on the hill and two down and the bases loaded, Russell Martin popped up the right-hander's 2-2 offering into right field, where Paredes and second baseman Jake Elmore bumped into each other. The ball fell to the ground and Travis Snider easily crossed home plate.
Hector Ambriz blew the save for the Astros in the eighth, issuing a two-run homer to Pedro Alvarez which tied the game.
"Our defense has been one of our strong suits pretty much the whole year," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "But tonight, we did not play good defense and we put our self in a position where it cost us the ballgame."
Andrew McCutchen was a triple shy of the cycle, finishing with three hits for Pittsburgh, winners of four straight and seven of eight overall. Justin Wilson (4-0) picked up the win after working around a walk in the top of the ninth.
"It's unbelievable," Alvarez said. "That's baseball."
Matt Dominguez hit a two-run home run for the Astros, losers in seven of their last eight.
With one down in the ninth, McCutchen singled to right, moving Snider to third base. Brandon Inge then hit a slow-roller back to the mound, but Gonzalez juggled the exchange and all runners where safe. Neil Walker struck out to make two outs with the bases loaded before Martin's harmless bloop scored the eventual game-winner.
Pittsburgh trailed 4-2 heading into the eighth, but rallied versus Ambriz. Walker advanced to second on a wild pitch, and reached third on Martin's fly out to center. Alvarez didn't waste any time, as he took the first pitch he saw well over the right field bleachers and one-hopped into the Allegheny River, tying the game at 4-4.
In the fifth, Pittsburgh starter Jeanmar Gomez served up a one-out solo homer to Dominguez to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. Gomez forced two outs with a runner on second, but things quickly got worse.
Robbie Grossman drew a walk and Elmore came through with an RBI single to make it 3-1. Houston added another run as Elmore tried to swipe second with Jason Castro at the plate, but Martin was charged with an error after throwing a low attempt to get Elmore. Walker corralled the ball, though, his throwing error to home allowed Grossman to score and make it 4-1.
The Pirates got one run back in the sixth and forced Houston starter Jordan Lyles out of the game. McCutchen popped up a seemingly innocent shallow fly to right before Houston's Chris Carter had the ball bounce off his glove and allow McCutchen to advance to third with the error. Garrett Jones, Lyles' last batter faced, smacked a double down the right-field line to bring Pittsburgh within 4-2.
Houston took an early 1-0 lead. Grossman doubled to open the contest, advanced to third on Elmore's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Castro's deep fly to center.
"We never give up, we are a resilient group." Added Alvarez.
Lyles, though, labored through the home half of the first, tossing 32 pitches. The third batter he faced, McCutchen, crushed his 0-1 offering over the left- center wall to tie the game.
Houston officially announced the hiring of Reid Ryan as the team's new president of business operations on Friday ... Houston's Lyles tossed five- plus innings, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and striking out four. He entered the game going 0-4 with a 7.77 ERA in five starts against the Pirates in his career ... Gomez gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits over 4 2/3 innings.