Nady lifts Pirates to comeback win
Right fielder homers for second consecutive night
HOUSTON -- Xavier Nady did it again.
One night after belting a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth inning, Nady homered again Tuesday night and then burned Houston in the eighth inning with a two-out, RBI single that lifted the Pirates to a 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park.
Trailing 2-1 entering the eighth, the Pirates got a one-out bunt single from Jack Wilson and a walk to Jason Bay. Reliever Dan Wheeler retired Adam LaRoche for the second out to bring Ronny Paulino to the plate, and the Pirates catcher came up with a single to center to score Wilson to tie the game. Nady followed with another base hit to score Bay to break the tie.
"It's just one of those things, you know?" Nady said. "I was just trying to have quality at-bats. The first one, I got ahead in the count and I was just looking for something to drive."
Nady's blooper to center proved to be the game-winner as the Pirates, who didn't get their second win last year until the season's ninth game, improved to 2-0.
"In that situation I was just looking for something I could drive and he tied me up a little more than I anticipated," Nady said. "It's nice when you come back from being down both times. This is good to see [for] this team. Hopefully we'll continue to do it."
Wilson's gamble got things going.
"I think you begin No. 1 with our starting pitcher tonight and the job he did," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said of right-hander Ian Snell. "That was a fairly dominating performance that he gave us. Xavier Nady with two big at bats. We did something again tonight that took us a while to figure out a year ago and that was we got two huge base hits with two outs that produced the tying and go-ahead runs.
"The other thing that I need to mention is the fact the way it got started, the heads-up play by our shortstop, the bunt for the base hit that fueled the whole inning. That set the stage for the whole inning, just a very heads-up play on his part."
Wilson said he noticed the Astros were playing "no doubles" defense with first baseman Lance Berkman guarding the line. Wilson also noticed Houston second baseman Craig Biggio playing more towards the middle.
"I gave it a shot," Wilson said.
Up until then, it looked as if the Pirates had wasted a fine outing by Snell. The right-hander allowed just two runs on four hits in six innings. Snell also set a career high with 11 strikeouts and walked only one, and that was intentional.
Snell limited the Astros to an Adam Everett double through four innings while striking out eight. His fastball routinely hit 95 mph on the radar gun indicator and his curveball and slider kept the Houston batters baffled.
"Everything was working and they were swinging at a lot of pitches to help me out, let's say they just helped me out a lot, them swinging at bad pitches," Snell said. "When they got 0-2, I'd throw a pitch in the dirt or throw a slider and got them out."
The slider was particularly troublesome for Houston slugger Carlos Lee, whom Snell fanned swinging the first two times the outfielder came to the plate. But with the game tied in the sixth inning with two outs and a runner in scoring position, Snell strayed from the slider and paid the price.
After going ahead 0-2 on Lee with two consecutive sliders, Snell tried to sneak a 94 mph fastball by Lee. The pitch was certainly not a terrible one, it was on the hands, but Lee was able to get enough of the bat on it to drop it into center field for an RBI single that gave Houston a 2-1 lead.
"Aw man, we were talking about that the whole game," Snell said. "[Pirates pitcher] Matt Capps throws one and he doesn't even touch it. [Lee is] a good hitter. He's so strong it doesn't matter. He got the hit and got the run in. [The pitch] went where I wanted it to go, but I wish it would have broke his bat instead of him getting that little flare out there."
Lee said he was just trying not to strike out again and wasn't surprised Snell threw a fastball.
"He was trying to make a good pitch," Lee said. "I guess I hit it on the right spot."
Snell threw 59 of his 86 pitches for strikes while holding the top five batters in the Houston's "Killer B" lineup -- Biggio, Chris Burke, Berkman, Lee and Morgan Ensberg -- to a combined 1-for-14 with eight strikeouts.
"I thought he did a nice job," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "I never got a pattern on him and obviously our players didn't either. We swung at a lot of fastballs which I think we won't do very often. That will be uncharacteristic of our club."
"Ian Snell was terrific tonight," Tracy said. "Even the pitch he made to Carlos Lee, the no-ball, two-strike pitch, give credit where credit is due. A very good hitter hit a very good pitch. [Snell] jammed him badly, and he's a strong enough guy that he was able to lift it over our infield, that's all."
The Astros had tied the game in the fifth when Jason Lane turned on another Snell pitch that found too much of the plate for a solo homer.
The Pirates went ahead, 1-0, in the second when Nady homered for the second consecutive at-bat. Nady, who tied Monday's game with two outs in the ninth with a home run off Brad Lidge, took Jason Jennings deep Tuesday night with one out in the second to give the Pirates the early lead.
And for the second night in a row, the Pirates won a game after trailing in the eighth inning.
"There's a lot of things you can say about this team this year," Snell said. "We're not going to give up. We show a lot of heart and we play hard all the time, and if we keep this going, the sky's the limit for us. And I think we're going to keep it going."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.