EditorsNote: Fixing second-to-last graph
McHugh, Gattis fuel Astros past Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- By a pitcher's timetable, 31 days can seem like an eternity. That's how long Collin McHugh went between wins - from July 23 to Wednesday.
Making matters worse, he was coming off a disastrous start before he picked up the victory Wednesday in the Houston Astros' 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
"When you have a rough start, those five days turn into a pretty long five days," McHugh said of a no-decision against Baltimore on Friday when he allowed six earned runs on nine hits, including a career-high-tying four homers.
"When you're going well, it feels like you're out there every day on the mound. We had some stuff to work on this week, and I'm trying to get better every time that I'm out there."
He was good enough Wednesday, giving up three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and one walk to improve to 8-10.
Ken Giles pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Evan Gattis belted a two-run homer and three others drove in a run as the Astros gave McHugh some early run support and then held on.
Houston claimed the rubber match of the interleague series and has won five of its past six contests.
Gregory Polanco drove in two runs and Jordy Mercer hit a homer for Pittsburgh, which has lost five of its past six.
Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole (7-9) had another tough start, giving up five runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts in five innings. He failed to go six innings for the ninth time in 20 starts, and the Pirates have lost each of his past four outings.
"I obviously didn't do what I needed to do to keep us in the ballgame, so that's unfortunate," Cole said. "I'm just trying to go about it the best way that I can. It's not easy. I just try to show up and get my work in, do my job every day and keep pressing forward. It'll turn around."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said while the solution might be evasive, the diagnosis of Cole's problem is evident.
"I hate to sound simplistic. The overall command is coming and going. That's just the way it's been," Hurdle said. "Some balls elevated in the middle of the plate. Then you see some sequences that are sharp. We're not getting the balls in the area we want to get it often enough or with consistency to minimize opportunities to score.
"Right now you could probably say he's wild in the strike zone."
Gattis gave Houston a 2-0 lead in the second inning with his 20th homer of the season. The blast was sent to the hedges in center field after Carlos Correa led off with a walk.
Mercer led off the third with a homer to left to pull the Pirates within a run at 2-1.
The Astros restored their two-run lead in the fourth. Correa led off with an infield single and advanced to second on Mercer's throwing error from short. An out later, Marwin Gonzalez tripled to the gap in right-center to drive in Correa to make it 3-1.
Houston got two more off of Cole in the fifth. George Springer led off with a single up the middle and moved to third on rookie Alex Bregman's fluky double when the ball kicked up off of third base. Jose Altuve and Correa followed with sacrifice flies for a 5-1 lead.
It was all the runs the Astros needed, barely.
"Gattis delivers the big blow," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think that relaxed the dugout a little bit. Marwin comes up with a big hit, we also had the two big sac flies with second and third, using the middle of the field.
"So, we did a little bit of everything to put across our runs."
Pittsburgh chipped away in its half of the fifth, closing to within 5-3 when Starling Marte and Polanco hit back-to-back two-out RBI singles.
Polanco brought the Pirates within a run at 5-4 in the seventh with a two-out RBI triple to the right-field corner.
"He's continued to find a way to plate runs for us," Hurdle said of Polanco, who is 8-for-18 with three doubles, three homers, a triple and five RBIs in his past four games. "Using all the field, doing some nice things."
It just wasn't enough Wednesday.
NOTES: Pittsburgh 3B Jung Ho Kang, on the DL with a partial shoulder dislocation, has resumed fielding and throwing. ... Pirates RHP Tyler Glasnow, on the DL with shoulder discomfort, was scheduled for a bullpen session in Triple-A IndianapolisWednesday and will make his next rehab start for Indy on a date to be determined. He has made two rehab starts at Double-A Altoona. ... The Pirates gave CF Andrew McCutchen a day off from the starting lineup. ... Pittsburgh LF Starling Marte returned to the lineup after not starting Tuesday. ... Houston SS Carlos Correa was back in the lineup. He left Tuesday's game because of illness. ... Astros IF/OF Yulieski Gurriel was not in the starting lineup for the third game in a row. The former Cuban star, who was recalled Sunday, is dealing with a hamstring issue, limiting him to pinch-hitting availability. ... According to the Houston Chronicle, former St. Louis executive Christopher Correa has been ordered to surrender by 1 p.m. Tuesday to begin serving his 46-month prison sentence in Cumberland, Md., for unauthorized intrusions into the Astros' player and scouting information database. ... Houston opens a six-game homestand Friday against Tampa Bay. ... The Pirates begin a four-game series against Milwaukee on Thursday at Miller Park, where they have gone 0-3 this season and have lost nine straight games.