Pirates rally past Astros to reach rare above-.500 status

HOUSTON -- The Pittsburgh Pirates have been looking for a spark for their offense.

On Wednesday night they got that boost off the bench.

Pinch-hitter Xavier Paul doubled, then stayed in the game and hit a two-run homer and single as the Pirates moved over .500 with a 7-3 win over the Houston Astros.

At 34-33, this is the first time the Pirates have been over the break-even point so late in a season since Aug. 15, 1999, when they were 59-58.

Neil Walker tripled and drove in three runs for the Pirates.

Paul batted for starter Charlie Morton (7-3) in the sixth and doubled to start a three-run burst that put Pittsburgh ahead 5-3.

"To start something off right there, that's a momentum shift," Paul said of his double. "They were up 3-2 right there and we were trying to crawl back and anything can happen if you get on base. That was just my mindset."

Paul went to play right and connected the next inning for his first home run of the season and second of his career.

Paul singled in the ninth inning to finish 3 for 3 in a game that took 3 hours, 47 minutes. The teams combined for 26 hits and left 27 on base. It was the longest nine-inning game at Minute Maid Park since a game against the Cubs of the same length in August 2002.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was happy to see his team score as many runs on Wednesday as it had in the previous four games combined.

"Every one of these guys has worked extremely hard at trying to find some offensive consistency," he said. "Obviously not everybody's finding it still ... but we had good at-bats when we needed good at bats."

Michael Bourn fought through an illness to finish with three hits, an RBI and two stolen bases for the Astros, who have dropped 10 of 12.

Morton allowed eight hits and three runs in five innings. Daniel McCutchen yielded three hits in three scoreless innings.

Morton wasn't that pleased with his outing.

"It was pretty mediocre, all in all," he said. "The offense picked me up. Anytime you see our guys go off like that it is fun to watch."

Reliever Enerio Del Rosario (0-1) allowed the three runs in the sixth.

Pinch-hitter Garrett Jones singled home Paul and made it 3-all. Andrew McCutchen hit a grounder that first baseman Brett Wallace badly overthrew to the plate, letting the go-ahead run score, and Walker had a sacrifice fly.

Paul, who came a triple short of the cycle, hopes the Pirates can build off Wednesday's offensive performance.

"The way we have been pitching, if we can just tune up the bats and start putting more runs on the board, I think we'll get the results we want," he said.

Bourn was plunked with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Hunter Pence singled and they pulled a double steal with two outs. A groundout by Carlos Lee ended the scoring threat.

The Astros got a pair of singles with two outs in the eighth inning, but Pence grounded into a force out to end the inning.

Bourn's RBI single tied it at 2 in the fourth and he later stole third. He was ill with stomach problems for most of the day and wasn't originally in the lineup. He was inserted about 75 minutes before the game after seeing a doctor and drinking Pedialyte, a children's hydration drink.

Houston starter J.A. Happ gave up six hits and two runs while striking out seven in five innings.

"Happ kept us in the game," Houston manager Brad Mills said. "His pitch count got elevated. He came after some guys in some big situations and worked himself out. That fifth inning was stressful on him."

Happ, who hasn't won in more than a month, was disappointed that he wasn't able to stay in the game longer.

"I'm trying to go out there and play to win," he said. "I don't play to not lose. We're going to keep trying to figure it out and keep working on stuff."

Game notes
Pittsburgh's Michael McKenry singled in the second and seventh innings for his first career hits after entering the game 0 for 14. ... The Astros placed reliever Brandon Lyon on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right biceps less than a week after returning from his first trip to the DL. He's scheduled to see Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles on Friday for a second opinion. ... Pittsburgh C Wyatt Toregas cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis.