The Pirates defeated the Astros for the sixth consecutive time this season. It was only the second three-game sweep of Houston in the seven-year history of PNC Park. The Bucs have now won four in a row.
"It's really good to sweep them, that's for sure," Pirates manager Jim Tracy observed. "To win three, and we played a good game today and we got a couple of huge hits, two-strike hits -- the one by [Jason] Bay [in the sixth] and the one by [Ryan] Doumit in the bottom of the eighth inning, obviously, as it turns out was huge."
Pittsburgh starter Tony Armas, who came into the contest with a bloated 18.90 ERA, had his best outing of the season. The 28-year-old right-hander pitched five-plus innings and gave up one run on six hits. He received a no-decision.
"Armas pitched a very competitive game for us," Tracy stated. "And got us to the point in the game where we were able to use the bullpen that we had available. We extended him out there a little bit, and he did a great job."
The Pirates' bullpen was very effective, as it has been most of the season. Right-hander Jonah Bayliss worked two scoreless frames and notched the win, upping his record to 2-1.
"You come into a game [with] bases loaded and no outs ... " Bayliss stated. "In a sick and twisted way, that's kind of what us relievers live for. To be able to come out and shut them down like that -- it's probably the ultimate adrenalin rush."
Houston lefty Wandy Rodriguez tossed seven-plus innings and allowed two runs on five hits. Rodriguez was tagged with the loss, falling to 0-3 on the season.
The Astros drew first blood against Armas in the top of the first inning. Chris Burke had a leadoff double and scampered home on a sacrifice fly by Lance Berkman, staking Houston to a 1-0 lead.
Houston loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth. Armas exited, and Bayliss got Brad Ausmus on a popup to second and induced Rodriguez to bounce into a double play.
"One of the huge keys to the game was the job that Bayliss did," Tracy said. "The bases-loaded, no-out situation in the sixth inning."
Pittsburgh got to Rodriguez in the bottom of the sixth inning. A single by Jose Castillo, a walk to Chris Duffy and an error on third baseman Mike Lamb, which allowed Freddy Sanchez to reach base, loaded the bases. Bay then delivered a two-run single to right field to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
The Pirates tacked on some insurance in the bottom of the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Xavier Nady was hit by a pitch by Houston reliever Chad Qualls with the bases loaded. Doumit, just called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, smacked a two-run single to right, extending the Pirates' lead to 5-1.
"It's always nice to contribute," Doumit explained. "Right now, things are going well for me. I feel like my swing is right where I need to be, and hopefully, I can keep it up."
As it turned out, the Pirates would need those runs, because right-hander Salomon Torres had another bumpy ninth inning. Houston scored two runs off Torres as he saw his ERA baloon to 7.20. Lefty John Grabow came on to nail down the save, his first since August 2004.
"We didn't finish the game like I would have liked to have seen us," Tracy said. "We ended up with a left-hander [Grabow] in there, that if I would have a choice, I'd rather not have in there. But the important thing is to win the game today and deal with tomorrow when it comes."
The victory evened the Pirates' record at 10-10 on the season.
"I think we're in great shape," Bayliss explained. "I think the 10-10 record doesn't indicate how well we can play. We've struggled a little bit offensively, but it's only a matter of time before a bunch of those guys catch fire. As soon as they do, in my opinion, we have a chance to be lights out."
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.