PNC Park | 7:05 | Maholm vs. Brandon Backe | Box
The chicken/egg argument for today: Has the Pirates pitching been good or has the Astros offense been that bad?
The Astros got three runs in eight innings off Paul Maholm. That was the most they have gotten all month, sadly enough. Jason Michaels bopped a two out, three run homer in the first. And the Pirates are once again floating near .500.
The Astros pieced together five of their nine hits to score three runs in the first two innings. Jason Bay’s second triple of the year with two down in the fifth broke a 3-3 tie and put the Bucs up for good.
The Astros put runners on first and third off Matt Capps in the 9th, but failed to score. It was the first runner to advance past second base since the second inning for Houston.
Brandon Backe allowed all three runs in six innings. Maholm walked none, allowed nine hits and whiffed just one. He threw 86 pitched (64 strikes) in eight innings. Maybe the Astros haven’t been patient enough?
It has been an interesting career so far for Brandon Backe. He was drafted as a second baseman by the Devil Rays. Played just about everywhere in the minors before converting to pitcher in 2001. He made the show the next year. He was traded to Houston for Geoff Blum after 2003. Early in 2004, he struck out three Brewers on nine pitches. In 2006, he tore an elbow ligament and had Tommy John surgery. As a result, he started just 13 games between 2006 and 2007. He has started 12 times in 2008 and is 4-6 with an ERA that is just below league average.
His last start against the Pirates was September 16, 2007 and he also squared off against Paul Maholm. Backe earned the win, giving up just two solo homers in six innings and receiving plenty of run support.
Overall he is 4-1 with a 2.85 against the Pirates. That is for eight appearances, five of which have been starts. The Pirates are hitting less than .200 against him as a whole. However, in 69 at bats, the team has hit six taters. Both Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche have homered twice off of Backe.
Maholm will be going for his second straight win. He gave up just one run in 6-2/3 to get the win on May 31. It was his first win since hurling a complete game at the Phillies on April 27.
Maholm’s last start against Houston was the debacle against Backe mentioned above. He gave up 10 earned runs and got eight outs. It was without question the worst start of his career. He is 3-3 with a 6.23 ERA against Houston overall. Take away that last start and his career ERA against the Astros is 4.21. The Astros are just 16-73 against Maholm with one homer. No one has more than three hits and no one has more than on RBI.
Big day today. Draft starts at 2 PM. The Post-Gazette has reported that the Pirates will almost certainly take Pedro Alvarez. Plus Lakers-Celtics.