Houston ended its franchise-worst 12-game losing streak, but still lost. For the fourth time in the past 10 days, the Astros traded away a starter, sending Chris Johnson to Arizona hours before Sunday’s game. Later that day, the Astros beat Pittsburgh 9-5 in the finale of a six-game homestand.
“When we have played so well at home all year long, to go through a homestand like this without a win that would have been hard,” Houston manager Brad Mills said. “That’s a big breath of fresh air. I loved how our guys battled through this thing and after those three one-run losses and when we lost it in the ninth inning.“
Johnson was one of the hottest hitters in the Houston lineup before getting moved, but on Sunday, the Astros got contributions from all over the lineup. Newly acquired first baseman Steve Pearce had an RBI double, second baseman Jose Altuve had a double and a walk while Jordan Schafer added a two-run home run.
Of course, Pirates starter James McDonald helped. The right-hander entered the game with a 3-2 record and a 2.66 ERA in his career against Houston, but had problems with his control Sunday. He walked a career-high seven batters, which is two more than he’d ever walked in 115 career major league games.
Houston starter Lucas Harrell did just enough to keep Houston in the game, too. Harrell left with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning. Fernando Rodriguez relieved him, getting pinch hitter Andrew McCutcheon to pop up to Altuve to end the inning.
Harrell threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, two runs and three walks while striking out five. It’s the sixth time in his last seven starts that Harrell has struck out at least five batters.
“I didn’t feel that great about how I threw the ball,” Harrell said. “There were a couple of key situations where I made good pitches. At third base, you can’t say enough about the way Scott (Moore) played. Schafer made a couple great rundowns in the outfield, and the new guy at first made a couple of good plays.”
Third baseman Scott Moore, starting for the traded Johnson, was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a walk. Pearce went 1 for 4 in his Astros debut, hitting into a double play in the third. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez was 3 for 5 with two doubles, including one with the bases loaded in the seventh that scored 3 runs.
NOTES: Pearce started at first base on Sunday. In the originally posted lineup, Scott Moore was due to start there with Chris Johnson at third. However, after the trade sending Johnson to Arizona was announced 30 minutes before game time, the lineup was reshuffled and Pearce got the start. … Houston expects catcher Jason Castro to go on a rehab assignment to the Gulf Coast League Astros, based at the team’s Kissimmee training facility by the end of the week. From there, Castro is hoping to be active by the beginning of Houston’s next home stand, which is Aug. 6 against the Nationals. Castro was placed on the disabled list retroactive to July 8 due to swelling in his surgically repaired right knee. … Altuve walked twice, going 1 for 3 with a double and two runs scored. It’s just the second time in his young career that he’s had a two walk game, with the first happening on May 18 against the Rangers.