Pedro Alvarez hit his eighth home run of the season down the left field line in the fifth inning for the game’s only score in a 1-0 shutout victory on Sunday afternoon for Jeff Locke and the Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18) over the Houston Astros at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Locke (4-1; 2.73 ERA) pitched a three-hitter over seven innings for his fourth win of the year. He struck out four batters and walked two. Mark Melancon (15 holds) and Jason Grilli (17 saves) both pitched one perfect inning of relief.
The Pirates recorded only four hits, but held the lowly Astros (12-32) to just three. Lucas Harrell (3-5; 4.63 ERA) took the loss.
Despite the Astros’ record, Pittsburgh won only two of the three games in the series. Houston scored off Melancon in the reliever’s first blown save in the eighth inning of Saturday night’s game, and took two more off Bryan Morris (1-2; 3.68 ERA) in the 11th inning in their 4-2 victory. Jose Altuve, in his first appearance since a stint on the bereavement list, Chris Carter and J.D. Martinez also singled home runs for Houston. Pittsburgh scored on a Gaby Sanchez RBI double and a single by Brandon Inge.
The Pirates, tied with Cincinnati for second place in the National League Central Division two-and-a-half games behind St. Louis (28-15), are 5-2 through the first seven games of their present 10-game homestand. After an off-day Monday, the Bucs will host the Chicago Cubs (18-25) in the first game of a three-game series on Tuesday night. Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez (4-2; 3.25 ERA) is scheduled to face Matt Garza, who will be making his first start of the season. Garza strained a back muscle during spring training, and had not played since the incident until he made four recent appearances in a rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues.