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Pirates Pound Budly, Astros' Hopes for .500 Fade To Glimmer

Tonight's game was against a lefty, and you know what that means: No Brett Wallace.  For shame, Millsy.  Carlos Lee, who has been frequently taking his place at first base this month, is batting .230/.261/.391 in September, and he lowered that tonight with his third consecutive hitless game (although he did draw a walk for just the fourth time in the month).

The Astros notched three runs against Pirates starter Zach Duke, but it wasn't enough, as Bud Norris got pounded for five in four and two-thirds innings, striking out six and walking three.  Norris is one of the most inconsistent pitchers I've seen in that his velocity, command, and movement all seem to  fluctuate significantly from start to start.  That said, despite the results, I didn't think this was a terrible start for him; his fastball velocity was solid, and his command was better than it has been in most of the starts where he's gotten blown up.  Credit the Pirates with good hitting (queue snarky follow-up statement).

Chris Johnson and Humberto Quintero each put together two-hit games, with both of them using the whole field in their at bats.  Johnson hit the ball hard both times, and his swing is sweet when he's locked in.  He would be a scary hitter if he were better at recognizing breaking balls.

Pedro Alvarez won the battle of the rookie third basemen tonight, though, hitting the three-run homer which turned Bud's start bad, and singling against the bullpen later in the game.  Despite striking out twice, he has to be the player of the game, and when the other team takes that honor, it's probably an Astros loss.  So things went tonight, despite a late-game comeback attempt by Brian Bogusevic, who hit his third career double and notched his third career RBI to no avail.

Tomorrow, J.A. Happ will try to take the series from the Pirates against fellow lefty Paul Maholm (which probably means no Wallace--again).  I suspect most will be watching an epic in another sport, though, as the Houston Texans shoot for their first 3-0 start and the Dallas Cowboys try to avoid the opposite result at their hands.