Astros sink Pirates 3-1 for 4th straight win

Hernandez, Reed celebrate dinger
(c) Associated Press

The Astros offense got off to a slow start against Jameson Taillon Monday night in Pittsburgh, striking out five times in the first three innings and failing to record a hit until Jose Altuve's single with two outs in the fourth. But Doug Fister matched the former Houston area prep star pitch for pitch, setting the stage for a trio of Astros' rookies to steal the show.

After A.J. Reed coaxed a walk to lead off the fifth inning, fellow freshman Teoscar Hernandez drove a 3-1 offering from Taillon into the leftfield seats for a 2-0 Astros lead.

Fister kept Pittsburgh hitters off-balance and off the scoreboard for seven innings, allowing only four baserunners and fanning six before handing the ball to Will Harris in the eighth.

Harris needed only 13 pitches to author a 1-2-3 inning, sending the game to the final stanza with the Astros still clinging to a 2-0 lead.

Taillon gave way to Neftali Feliz after pitching eight strong innings, racking up eight strikeouts and allowing only four hits and one walk. Feliz was rudely welcomed to the game when Alex Bregman launched his second pitch deep over the centerfield wall for his fourth home run in the last seven games.

Now leading 3-0, A.J. Hinch summoned Ken Giles from the Houston bullpen to close things out. Giles whiffed Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen on nasty sliders to record two quick outs. Gregory Polanco kept the Buccos hopes alive when he stroked a ground-rule double to the gap in left-center, bringing David Freese to the plate.

Freese hit a hard grounder down the third-base line that was snared by a diving Bregman. But Bregman's throw to first sailed wide of the bag and couldn't be corralled by Marwin Gonzalez, who had been brought in as a defensive replacement for Reed. The bad throw allowed Polanco to trot home with the Pirates first run of the game as Freese attempted to advance to second. Gonzalez recovered the ball in foul territory and threw a strike to Jose Altuve at second base and Freese was tagged out to end the game.

Fister improved to 12-8 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.59. Harris notched his 18th hold and Giles registered his fourth save. Yulieski Gurriel grounded out pinch-hitting for Fister in the eighth, easing concerns about a tight hamstring that forced him to leave Sunday's game early.

The Astros try to run the win streak to five Tuesday night as Joe Musgrove opposes Ivan Nova in a 6:05 CDT tilt.

- Greg Thurston