PITTSBURGH (AP) - Houston manager Brad Mills knows Jimmy Paredes was just trying to make a play. Mills hopes experience will teach his young infielder sometimes it's OK to hold up after Paredes was caught in a rundown between second and third in the ninth to snuff out a rally in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates.
``You like the aggressiveness but at the same time you like to pick up that learning curve,' Mills said. ``Sometimes there's things you'd like to go through, and hopefully we're going through those now and we don't have to continue to go through the same things.'
The Astros had runners on first and second with one out when Matt Downs hit a shallow flyball to center that dropped in for a hit. Houston's Chris Johnson held up at third, but Paredes didn't realize Johnson had stopped until he was 30 feet past second. Pittsburgh shortstop Ronny Cedeno easily tagged out Paredes and Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan got Jake Shuck to fly out to right and pick up his 35th save.
``(Paredes) knew that he was a tying run, and I'm sure that he's thinking, `Man, I can get to third here,' or whatever, and it kind of blocked out everything else,' Mills said. ``He was just overanxious, you know, you hate to say it but that's an experience thing that's going to keep coming a little bit with him.'
The Astros now have two four-game winning streaks and two four-game losing streaks in the last three weeks, another symptom of a team learning on the fly. Yet Mills was impressed by the play of rookie right-hander Henry Sosa (2-3), who gave up two runs over six innings in miserable conditions. The game was delayed 56 minutes by rain then played in a downpour that became steadier as the afternoon progressed.
``It's another quality outing,' Mills said. ``He threw the ball extremely well. His ball had good movement and good sink and he went deep into the game for us and gave us a chance.'
Houston, however, couldn't come through when it mattered, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position while being handcuffed by Pittsburgh's James McDonald (9-7), who went 7 1-3 innings on 91 efficient pitches.
``It was just one of those games where it was just miserable,' said Houston's J.D. Martinez. ``You know, you're right there and then -- bam. All right, chip away, chip away and - bam, again. It was just one of those days we've got to hope to put behind us and then move on.'
McDonald can be dazzling at times with his 95 mph fastball but often struggles with his command, making it difficult to last into the later innings.
There were no such issues against the Astros. McDonald worked quickly to work into the eighth for the first time since going eight full against the New York Mets last September.
``I feel like things are going in the right direction right now, just getting ahead of guys,' McDonald said. ``I think that's the big key to the success today.'
The grounds crew frequently added fresh dirt to the pitcher's mound to keep it from getting muddy, though portions of the warning track were under water by the late afternoon.
``No one wants to pitch under those circumstances,' catcher Ryan Doumit said. ``It's hard enough to pitch as it is but with a wet mound it's even harder. For him to go out and pitch the way he's pitched just gives you a glimpse of what he's capable of.'
Doumit had three hits, Josh Harrison went 2 for 3 and Derrek Lee hit his 16th homer as the Pirates won for the third time in four games.
Pittsburgh grabbed the lead for good with two runs in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen led off with an infield single and Sosa - who needed 107 pitches to get through six innings - drilled Lee in the ribs. Doumit doubled in McCutchen with one out and Lee came home on a single by Harrison.
``(Sosa) kind of stuck it to us last time we were in Houston so for us to go out today and get to him, it was a good win,' Doumit said.
NOTES: Houston's Carlos Lee had his 14-game hitting streak snapped when he went hitless in three at_bats. ... The series continues Tuesday. Brad Lincoln (1-1, 3.64 ERA) will start for Pittsburgh against Brett Myers (3-13, 4.81 ERA). Lincoln is 0-1 against Houston in his career, dropping a 6-2 decision at Minute Maid Park in July. Myers has dropped his last seven decisions and hasn't won since June 17. He worked two innings of relief on Friday and left the rotation briefly to be home for the birth of his fourth child. ... Schafer singled in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to a career-high seven games.
The Associated Press News Service
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