HOUSTON (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are saving their best plays for the end of the season.
Jose Bautista hit a two-run homer and Ronny Paulino added a run-scoring single in the eighth inning as the Pirates rallied to beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Friday night.Ian Snell pitched six strong innings and rookie center fielder Nyjer Morgan made a highlight-reel catch as the Pirates won for the fifth time in seven games."It's means a lot to me and it means a lot to the team to go out strong," Snell said.Pittsburgh trailed 2-1 after Lance Berkman hit a solo homer off Damaso Marte in the seventh.Chad Qualls (6-5) started the eighth in relief of Houston starter Roy Oswalt and gave up a single to Freddy Sanchez. Adam LaRoche grounded to Berkman, who threw to second for the force out, before Bautista drove a 3-1 pitch off the foul pole in left field, the first runs given up by Houston's bullpen in 16 innings.Steve Pearce singled to center and stole second before Paulino lined a single up the middle to put Pittsburgh up 4-2."You can have 10 good outings in a row," Qualls said, "and then you can have an outing like I did tonight and it doesn't matter."Houston rookie Josh Anderson, recalled on Sept. 1 and making his first major league start, had an RBI single in the eighth off Pirates reliever Shawn Chacon. But Matt Capps pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 17th save.All the Pirates wanted to talk about after the game was Morgan's catch that got Pittsburgh out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the third inning.Ty Wigginton, who doubled twice and scored a run for Houston, hit a high drive to deep center and Morgan sprinted to within a step of the wall before making a spectacular, over-the-shoulder grab."I try to catch everything," said Morgan, recalled from the minors on Sept. 1. "I was right on the wall. I just had to keep an eye on it. I just wanted to make a good play."The catch reminded Tracy of Willie Mays' famous catch in the 1954 World Series."This may be as good as you can witness," Tracy said. "That's pretty much an incredible play. That's as good a catch as you can possibly make."Houston lost to the Pirates for the 10th time in 13 meetings this season.Pittsburgh reliever Romulo Sanchez (1-0) earned the win by striking out Wigginton, the only batter he faced, to end the seventh. It was the first major league win for Sanchez, who made his debut Aug. 26 at Houston.The Astros have lost eight of their last nine games and 11 of 16 since Cecil Cooper replaced Phil Garner as manager on Aug. 27.The Pirates' rally ruined another strong outing by Oswalt, who'd won six of his last nine starts. The Astros' ace allowed six hits with six strikeouts and an unearned run in seven innings.Snell was just as effective, giving up a run on five hits with eight strikeouts in six innings."You've got to minimize the damage when you pitch against Oswalt," Snell said.Franquelis Osoria relieved Snell to start the seventh and retired Hunter Pence on a ground out. Tracy then called in the left-throwing Marte, but Berkman drove a 1-2 pitch off the brick facade in left field.Berkman's 30th homer of the season was only his fifth batting right-handed.Freddy Sanchez scored Pittsburgh's first run in the third inning after doubling down the left-field line with two outs. LaRoche singled to right and Pence bobbled the ball, allowing Sanchez to sprint home. Pence, a rookie, was making his first start in right field after making 94 starts in center.Wigginton doubled leading off the sixth inning and Brad Ausmus singled, but Wigginton could only get to third.Oswalt then grounded to shortstop Jack Wilson and his throw to Sanchez to try for a double play skipped into right field, allowing Wigginton to score and tie the game. It was Sanchez's seventh error of the season, the lowest total in the majors among second basemen with at least 500 chances.
Berkman has five 30-homer seasons, the second-most in Houston history. Jeff Bagwell had nine. ... Sanchez leads the majors with 95 doubles since the start of the 2006 season. ... Astros 2B Craig Biggio was honored before the game as Houston's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. The award is given to one player on every team for outstanding play and devoted work in the community. ... Astros OF Carlos Lee was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season.