PITTSBURGH -- You could excuse Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Tom Gorzelanny if he appeared a bit overwhelmed in his Major League debut Tuesday night at PNC Park. Just 11 days after tossing a four-hit shutout for Altoona in the Double-A playoffs, the 23-year-old southpaw was taking on Houston star Andy Pettitte with the Astros clinging to a slim lead in the Wild Card race. Although the Astros defeated Pittsburgh, 7-4, Gorzelanny held his own against the stiff competition. In fact, he threw the ball much better than his final pitching line -- five runs on seven hits and two walks -- would indicate.
"His numbers weren't the best. But you could see the stuff is there," said Pirates interim manager Pete Mackanin. "For his Major League debut, I thought he did a pretty good job. "I liked his breaking ball and fastball. He had good movement on his pitches. He really didn't look intimidated." If not for a few Pittsburgh defensive lapses and Houston catcher Brad Ausmus' clutch hitting from the eighth spot in the batting order, Gorzelanny might have led the Pirates to their fifth straight win. Ausmus went 2-for-2 with three runs to lead an offense that had not scored in the previous three games against the Pirates. His RBI double with two outs in the second inning came immediately after Adam Everett's bloop single to shallow left-center field fell between Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, left fielder Michael Restovich and center fielder Jason Bay. "It kind of took off," said Wilson. "It was my ball. It ended up being one of those 'Bermuda Triangle' plays where it just falls right between three of is. That was tough, because the next guy [Ausmus] gets the hit to score him." Everett's suicide squeeze attempt in the fourth inning turned into an RBI single when he beat out Gorzelanny's throw to first base. Ausmus followed with a two-run double to put the Astros ahead, 4-2. Houston tacked on another run against Gorzelanny (0-1) on Morgan Ensberg's 36th home run of the season, a screamer down the left-field line begin the fifth inning. "They're a really good hitting team. They're very patient," said Gorzelanny. "It was a big learning experience going against a team like that. Obviously the results weren't good and we lost. But it happens." Even if the Pirates do not start Gorzelanny again this season -- and that remains the plan, according to Mackanin -- the rookie will go home this offseason feeling as though he belongs in the big leagues. "I know that from what I felt and what I did out there, I know I can pitch up here," said Gorzelanny. "I know I can be successful up here. That makes me feel good about myself." Pettitte, like Roger Clemens a night earlier, was not at his most dominant. However, the crafty lefty was bailed out on several occasions by his defense, particularly center fielder Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett nailed Jose Bautista at the plate on Freddy Sanchez's two-out single to shallow center field for the final out of the fourth inning and robbed Jason Bay of extra bases with a headfirst catch in the fifth. Lance Berkman provided the Astros with their biggest defensive play of the night. With Pittsburgh runners at second and third and two outs in the sixth inning and the Pirates trailing, 5-2, Berkman dove to his right to snare a sharply hit grounder by Nate McLouth that likely would have driven in two runs. Rookie Brad Eldred put the Pirates on the board with his 10th home run, a solo shot to left field off Pettitte to begin the second inning. Craig Wilson, who went 3-for-5 on the night, drove in Pittsburgh's second and third runs with a double in the third inning and a single in the seventh. He had been hitting just .224 since returning from the disabled list on August 28. "[Craig Wilson] needs to get going. We know he's better than he's shown," Mackanin said. "He looked better at the plate today. I hope he can continue it and end the season on a good note." Pettitte (17-9) allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings to improve to 11-2 since the All-Star break. "I thought [Pettitte] threw the ball well today," Mackanin said. "He spotted all of his pitches and had good command. When he's pitching well, he's going to be tough for anybody to beat."
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.