PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rookie Ji-Hwan Bae hit a game-ending three-run homer in the ninth inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Houston Astros 7-4 on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh led 4-2 entering the ninth, but Houston’s Chas McCormick hit a tying one-out, two-run double off closer David Bednar (1-0), who blew his first save opportunity in five chances.
Rodolfo Castro led off the bottom of the ninth with a single against Ryan Pressly (0-2) and pinch-hitter Andrew McCutchen singled with one out before Bae drove a 2-2 changeup 403 feet to right-center for his second career homer and first walk-off hit.
“When there’s pressure, I feel like I’m more concentrated,” Bae said.
Bae is noted more for his speed, and he stole 30 bases last season at Triple-A Indianapolis. However, he is developing power.
“There is definitely pop in there,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “At times, he’s like every young hitter and gets a little giddy. Then he’s able to come back and tone it back down. I think it’s still a work in progress throughout at-bats, learning what he can hit and what he can’t hit. He’s definitely working on it and he’s getting better.”
Ji-Man Choi and Jack Suwinski also homered for the Pirates, who have won six of eight.
Alex Bregman homered in the first inning for the Astros, and Kyle Tucker went deep in the second as Houston took a 2-0 lead against Mitch Keller.
“We were riding so high one moment and the next moment they are celebrating,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
It was the first home run of the season for Bregman, the two-time All-Star, who also doubled after entering the game with a .163 batting average.
“I think today was the best timing I’ve had, the best consistency of at-bats I’ve had all year,” Bregman said. “Now, it’s a matter of continuing to build off that and gain momentum.”
Suwinski’s two-run homer off Cristian Javier tied it in the second, and Choi put the Pirates ahead with a leadoff shot in the sixth. The Pirates increased their lead to 4-2 later in the sixth when Ke’Bryan Hayes doubled and scored on Canaan Smith-Ngiba’s sacrifice fly.
Choi, Hayes and Castro had two hits each for the Pirates as did Bregman and Tucker for the Astros.
Both starting pitchers went six innings. Keller gave up two runs and Javier allowed four.
Pittsburgh is 7-4 after losing at least 100 games each of the last two seasons.
The World Series champion Astros (5-7) missed an opportunity to win three games in a row for the first time this season.
“It seems like we’re one hit away, one pitch away,” Baker said. “We’ve just got to keep plugging. That’s all you can do but this one hurts.”
Astros: LHP Blake Taylor (left elbow strain) was activated from the injured list and optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land, where he made four scoreless appearances covering 3 1/3 innings.
Pirates: SS Oneil Cruz (broken left ankle) was transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL to clear a 40-man roster spot for RHP Eli Villalobos, who was claimed from off waivers from Miami and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. … RHP JT Brubaker (right elbow surgery) is seeking a second medical opinion before possibly undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The three-game series concludes Wednesday with Astros RHP Jose Urquidy (0-0, 3.86 ERA) facing LHP Rich Hill (0-1, 10.00).
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