Fister, home runs power Astros past Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- At 32, Houston right-hander Doug Fister knows how to settle down, rely on his defense and put together solid innings. He certainly didn't get unraveled Monday when he found himself in a pitchers' duel with a rookie.
Pittsburgh's Jameson Taillon was good, but Fister was better in leading the Astros to a 3-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.
"I was just kind of mixing things up," said Fister, who pitched three-hit ball for seven scoreless innings. "Jason (Castro, the catcher) had a good game plan and it came down to executing it. We had a couple of tricky fly balls and our guys out there wound up running them down. With our outfielders, they're very athletic and they'll run down most pitchers' mistakes."
Teoscar Hernandez and Alex Bregman hit home runs to provide the offense for Houston, which has won four games in a row and remained 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore, which holds the second American League wild-card spot.
Fister (12-8) allowed only one baserunner though the first 4 2/3 innings -- he walked David Freese in the second -- before Gregory Polanco doubled with two outs in the fourth. He finished with six strikeouts and one walk.
Fister leads the Astros in wins and in quality starts with 16.
"He had really good command of all his pitches," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "He was the definition of a pitcher with the way he got through the lineup, which is a tough lineup to face because they have some pretty good power and a lot of speed."
Ken Giles pitched the ninth for his fourth save of the season.
Pittsburgh lost its fourth straight and fell two games behind Miami and four behind St. Louis, which holds the second National League wild-card spot.
Taillon (3-3) allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out a career-high eight. He got off to a strong start, giving up just one hit and striking out five through four scoreless innings.
"We had a hard time getting anything off him," Hinch said of Taillon. "No one had seen him, and we didn't have a very good read on him. He had a really good breaking ball, good changeup and was impressive. We got the big swing when we needed it, though, from Hernandez, and that was big."
Taillon has been charged with just six earned runs in his past four starts, and the Pirates had won seven of his past eight starts.
Both starters breezed through the first four innings before Taillon got into some trouble in the fifth. He walked A.J. Reed and went to 3-1 on Hernandez, who then sent his third homer into the left-field stands for a 2-0 Houston lead.
"He had a good sinkerball," Hernandez said. "He threw a couple of good ones, but on 2-1 I was looking for him to throw me a fastball a little more up in the zone and, thankfully, I didn't miss it."
Castro followed with a double down the left-field line, and Jake Marisnick reached on a bunt to put runners on the corners with no outs. Taillon got out of it with no further damage when he struck out Fister and got George Springer to ground into a double play.
Taillon figured he might be in some trouble after he put Reed on base.
"Leadoff walk -- that's always bad," Taillon said. "I don't know what the statistics are, but it seems like they score a lot. I fell behind the next guy and he cranked a pitch out. Then an infield hit and a roller down the line. That's baseball. If you fall behind and make a mistake, they make you pay. I made a big pitch and got out of it on the double play. It could have been worse."
Bregman made it 3-0 when he led off the eighth with his fourth homer of the season, off Neftali Feliz, who relieved Taillon.
With two out in the ninth, Gregory Polanco hit a two-out double to left-center. Freese followed with an infield single that was aided by Bregman's error at third, driving in Polanco to make it 3-1. But Freese then tried to extend it to a double and was out at second to end the game with hard-hitting rookie Josh Bell on deck.
"You can't be out there at second base," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You're two runs down. That probably was some emotional base running. You get there, and it looks like it's getting away. At the end of the day, we needed to get Bell the at-bat.
"The only way it works is if you're safe."
NOTES: Pittsburgh 1B/3B David Freese signed a two-year contract extension, beginning in 2017, with a club option for 2019. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Freese will get $6.25 million in 2017, $4.25 million in 2018 and his 2019 club option is for $6 million with a $500,000 buyout. Freese, 33, is in his first season with the Pirates. That makes three Pirates who have signed multiyear deals since the start of the season. The others are RF Gregory Polanco and C Francisco Cervelli. ... 1B Josh Bell was in the Pittsburgh starting lineup for the second game in a row and the second time in his career. He was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis for the second time on Saturday. ... The Astros opted not to start Cuban prospect Yulieski Gurriel, which would have put him in the field in the National League park. He made his major league debut Sunday as Houston's designated hitter. ... This was the first meeting between the Pirates and Astros since May 17-19, 2013, also at PNC Park. ... This is Pittsburgh's final interleague series this season. Houston has an interleague series remaining against the Cubs on Sept. 9-11.