HOUSTON (AP) - The mounting frustrations for the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a boiling point Saturday night.
Manager Clint Hurdle was gone by the second inning, tossed after arguing a call, and starting pitcher Kevin Correia had some harsh words related to his team's effort after its latest stumble.
The Pirates committed three errors and failed to produce much offensively in a 4-1 loss to the Astros that further damaged their dimming playoff hopes.
Jason Castro hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning, as the Astros handed Pittsburgh its fifth consecutive loss.
The Pirates have scored one run or fewer in four of the five losses.
``It's almost like Little League where we need to hit the ball hard where it's pitched and not try to do things that aren't there,' Hurdle said. ``There were plays that we didn't make. We're not crisp and we're not performing the way we need to.'
Pittsburgh entered the game six back of the second National League wild-card berth. The Pirates have lost 17 of their last 21 games and at 75-76 are in danger of posting their 20th straight losing season, which would extend their record in major North American professional sports.
The Pirates' frustrations were evident early.
Hurdle came out of the dugout to argue with first-base umpire Tim Timmons, who moments earlier reversed a call to rule Michael McKenry out on a throw from Brett Wallace to Dallas Keuchel.
The call came with one out and no one on after Gabby Sanchez's solo home run gave the Pirates their lone run of the night.
The ejection was Hurdle's fifth of the season.
``I pushed the conversation,' Hurdle said. ``We just came to a disagreement.'
Hurdle said he didn't watch the replay but was told Keuchel tagged McKenry out, which he said made the reversal the correct call.
Keuchel pitched seven strong innings for the Astros, who won their second straight after enduring a three-game sweep at St. Louis.
Castro hit his third home run of the season off Pirates right-hander Kevin Correia to give the Astros their second lead of the evening, one the bullpen made sure to retain.
Correia was impressive through six innings for the Pirates - he tied a career-high for strikeouts with nine - but ran into trouble in the seventh.
He allowed Jed Lowrie a single to start the inning and pinch-runner Tyler Greene made it safely to second on an error by shortstop Clint Barmes that also allowed Matt Dominguez to reach on the fielder's choice.
It was one of three errors for Pittsburgh.
``That's a play I've got to make,' Barmes said.
That set the stage for Castro's game-winning shot, which soared just high enough to clear the right-field wall and the glove of Garrett Jones.
``I was doing well with that pitch the whole game,' Correia said of his changeup. ``It happens. He was out in front of it, caught the barrel with it and it got out.'
Correia exited the game having allowed four runs - three earned - and seven hits over six-plus innings.
It marked the third time in Correia's major league career that he struck out nine batters, most recently on July 18, 2010, against Arizona.
``We're making too many mistakes,' Correia said. ``You can make some of those mistakes when you're banging the ball out of the yard, but we're not doing that. I've got to make better pitches, but we've got to play better all-around if we're not going to score runs.'
Right-handers Hector Ambriz and Wilton Lopez both pitched scoreless innings to secure the win for the Astros, with Lopez getting Jones to fly out to end the game for Lopez's seventh save.
Wallace gave the Astros a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a one-out single down the middle to score Scott Moore, who had doubled.
Keuchel (3-7) allowed one run on four hits for his second win in as many starts. He struck out five and walked one.
``Their pitcher was on his game as far as his command and mixing pitches,' Hurdle said. ``He continued to shave balls away, and we weren't able to counter.'
NOTES: Astros RHP Edgar Gonzalez is day-to-day after exiting Friday night's game in the second inning with a right hamstring strain.
The Associated Press News Service
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