Not on Independence Day.
The Astros limped to their seventh straight loss, and major changes are in the offing. Slugger Carlos Lee was removed from the game in the seventh inning and his locker was cleared out afterward. Manager Brad Mills called it a "non baseball-related" decision then added "I don't want to go any farther than that."
Lee isn't the only Astros player apparently on the move. Though he has been one of the few bright spots of late, starter Dallas Keuchel (1-1) will be shipped to Triple-A Oklahoma City so the team can bring up a reliever to help out a weary bullpen.
Mills stressed the decision has nothing to do with performance. Keuchel gave up four runs in 5 2-3 innings, or one more run than he surrendered in his previous three starts combined.
"I knew if I got the first three guys out consistently I would have a good shot and I made some bad pitches to the bottom of the order and they made me pay," Keuchel said after his ERA rose from 1.35 to 2.45.
J.D. Martinez hit his 10th homer for Houston, while Scott Moore and Brian Bogusevic each had two hits, though it couldn't stop Houston from continuing its slide. The Astros are just 10-26 since moving within a game of .500 on May 25.
Mills, clearly frustrated, removed center fielder Jordan Schafer from the game in the second inning after a pair of fundamental mistakes. His off-line throw allowed the plodding Jones to turn a single into a double. Schafer later threw to the wrong base on sacrifice fly by McKenry, allowing two runners to move up and help the Pirates turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
"I just felt that (Schafer's) play and behavior didn't match what we needed to get done," Mills said.
Pittsburgh pushed it to 4-2 on McKenry's RBI-double in the fourth and the Pirates — who won on Drew Sutton's walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday — made sure no such heroics were required.
Andrew McCutchen went 1 for 3 to keep his NL-leading batting average at .360 while Alvarez continued to show signs that he's developing into the elite slugger the franchise envisioned when it selected him with the fourth pick in the 2008 draft. Alvarez had a two-run pinch-hit single during the comeback victory on Tuesday and his two-run single in the seventh gave the Pirates a cushion after the Astros pulled within 4-3.
"You're seeing a guy finding his rhythm and his confidence," Hurdle said of Alvarez. "To do that on a breaking ball from a left-hander, it was a very pretty swing."
NOTES: The series concludes on Thursday as Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens (1-2, 5.25 ERA) faces Houston's Bud Norris (5-5, 4.90) ... The Astros haven't won on July 4 since beating the Cubs in 2006 ... Pittsburgh reliever Jason Grilli tossed a scoreless eighth inning while making his 300th major league appearance.