HOUSTON They say you reach the postseason by beating up on inferior teams. Well, the Houston Astros are amidst the worst 53-game run by a Major League Baseball team in more than 50 years.The Giants followed the maxim in a 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, even if they got way too much dirt under their fingernails for their liking.It took a two-run uprising of pinch hits in the ninth off the Astros bullpen, which acted almost surprised to inherit a save situation. Joaquin Arias hit a pinch double that scored Brandon Belt from first base, then Hector Sanchez delivered another pinch single a jam shot to shallow center field that scored Arias with the tiebreaking run.The Giants managed their comeback just moments after the Astros had snapped a 1-all tie in the eighth, as Matt Cain desperately dust-rolled across the plate while trying to cover it after throwing a wild pitch.Dramatic or not, the Giants are entering a soft stretch drive in which they must step on necks as well as the accelerator. Tuesdays game was the first of 34 remaining on the schedule, and except for those six showdowns with the Dodgers, all are against teams that had a losing record entering the day.Nobody is losing like the Astros, who are 7-35 since the break and now on pace to finish with 112 defeats.Starting pitching reportCain was facing the Astros for the third time this season, and the second time since his perfect game against them June 13. But thoughts of perfection vanished for Cain in the first inning, when Jimmy Paredes reached on a chopper down the line that glanced off the glove of first baseman Brandon Belt for an error.The no-hitter thoughts evaporated in the fourth when Brett Wallace hit a double that forced Angel Pagan to scramble up Tals Hill in center field. But Pagan kept the shutout intact when he made a charging, diving catch of Tyler Greenes sinking line drive to end the inning.Cain could not pitch a shutdown inning after Pagans home run in the fifth, though. Fernando Martinez led off the bottom of the inning with a tape-measure drive. At least Cain managed to strand a runner at third base with no outs in the inning after Marwin Gonzalez singled and moved up 180 feet on the pitchers errant pickoff throw.After that, Cain worked efficiently enough to keep the baseball into the eighth. But Paredes worked a nine-pitch walk, Wallace singled on a changeup for his third hit of the game and the Astros advanced both runners on a sacrifice.Cain, going for the strikeout against Greene, threw a 3-2 curveball that bounced in the dirt and scooted between Poseys legs. Paredes stepped on the plate well before Posey could flip the ball back to Cain.Cain remained winless in five career games (four starts) at Houston.
Bullpen reportSantiago Casilla (5-5) sidestepped around Cains runner and a walk of his own to keep it a 2-1 game into the ninth an important development, as it turned out.Sergio Romo worked a worry-free ninth inning to record his seventh save.At the plateThe Giants werent able to dent Novatos Bud Norris, even though he entered 0-10 with a 6.78 ERA in his previous 14 starts. They did knock him around a little bit, but enough line drives found gloves.Astros second baseman Jose Altuve made a diving stop to take an RBI single away from Hunter Pence in the first inning. Greene, the shortstop, made a leaping grab of Belts liner to lead off the second inning. And Belt hit a loud out to center field with Pence aboard in the fourth.Pagan even managed to hit into some bad luck on his one-out double in the third. His drive down the right field line took a hard bounce and hit the foul pole, depriving him of what wouldve been his 10th triple of the season.Pagan took nothing to chance in the fifth, driving his eighth home run into the right field seats to snap a scoreless tie.The Giants wasted Poseys leadoff double in the sixth, and after Norris left with a blister issue in the seventh, they had trouble sustaining a rally.That changed in the ninth, after Belt singled off left-hander Wesley Walker. Against right-hander Wilton Lopez, Arias followed with his hot shot down the third base line that rattled around long enough in the left field corner for third base coach Tim Flannery to wave Belt home. Arias didnt get a great jump on Sanchezs single to center, but he still scored without even drawing a throw as the remnants of the crowd booed.Giants pinch hitters entered the day with a .177 average, good for dead last in the National League a bad omen considering the importance of having a strong and effective bench down the stretch.Arias and Sanchez reversed that trend.In fieldOne of the Giants most remarkable defensive plays in years actually began with a misplay. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval overran Jason Castros foul pop in the first inning, then let the ball clank off his glove as he tried to reach back for it. Sandoval stumbled but managed to scoop the ball an inch or two before it hit the grass and flip it in the air.Shortstop Brandon Crawford was six feet away and flat-footed as he slowed down. But as soon as he saw the volleyball-style dig, he bolted with remarkable quickness and slid on his stomach to make the catch.Crawford was just as smooth while making a basket catch of a blooper in the sixth.AttendanceThe Astros announced 13,516 paid the smallest crowd in the 13-year history of the ballpark formerly known as Enron Field.Up nextThe Giants continue their three-game series at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday. Barry Zito (10-8, 4.31) takes on left-hander Dallas Keuchel (1-6, 5.40), who is not a delectable pastry even though he must get that a lot.
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