At first glance, All-Star center fielder Michael Bourn didn't appear to have a huge impact on the game, getting one single in four at-bats, stealing a base and scoring what turned out to be a rather meaningless run. But his running catch in the fourth inning had as big of an impact as anything else.
"It changed the game," Pirates manager John Russell said.
The terrific running grab by Houston's Gold Glove outfielder put the brakes on what could have been a huge inning for the Pirates, and the Astros wound up pulling away to win, 6-3, for their season-high fourth consecutive victory at Minute Maid Park.
Jeff Keppinger, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence each hit solo homers, and Carlos Lee belted a two-run homer in the third for the Astros, who won their 10th consecutive game on a Wednesday. The Astros improved to 5-0 this year against Pittsburgh.
"They always say they come in bunches," said Berkman, who has homered in three consecutive games. "Heck, we'll take them. We've had a dearth of them, if you will, to this point in the season. It's good. Any time you can get four or five home runs in a game, we'll take it."
Moehler, who was 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his previous six starts, left after throwing three scoreless innings with a strained right groin, the same injury that has bothered him the last few starts. The Astros led 3-0, but the Pirates scored three runs in the fourth with no outs to tie the game.
A two-run double by Pittsburgh's Ryan Church off Gustavo Chacin tied the score, and Ronny Cedeno followed with a shot into the gap in right-center. Bourn came flying out of nowhere and ran down the ball on the warning track in right-center and bounced off the fence in front of the Astros' bullpen.
"I was playing him on the pull side because he had just hit a double in the gap, so I went to the other side to be able to catch it," Bourn said. "I put my head down to run to it and hopefully I was taking a right angle on it. From there I looked up and was able to make a snag."
As the crowd rose to its feet to give Bourn a much-deserved standing ovation, a stunned Church scrambled back to second base and failed to advance. Chacin got the final two outs to strand Church at second.
"I got stuck in no man's land," Church said. "And once you hesitate, you have no chance [to advance to third]. They limited the damage after that."
Berkman hit a 3-2 pitch from Pirates starter Daniel McCutchen (1-1) into the first row of the Crawford Boxes to make it 4-3 in the fifth, and Pence led off the sixth inning with his 12th homer of the season to put the Astros ahead, 5-3. Bourn scored on a passed ball in the seventh.
"Berkman has gotten us twice," Russell said. "He plays this ballpark well getting it over that wall."
Relief pitcher Casey Daigle, making his first appearance since June 20, threw two scoreless innings for his first win in the big leagues since May 10, 2004. He had gone 2,249 days between Major League wins, which was the most of an active pitcher.
"It's always special to get a big league win, on top of the fact my wife and son were there, which makes it that much more special," said Daigle, who is married to U.S. softball gold medalist Jennie Finch. Their 4-year-old son, Ace, was bumping around the clubhouse after the game in an Astros uniform. He wasn't born when his father won his previous game in the Majors.
"Ace is older now, and he's able to be in the clubhouse, and to me that's pretty much one of the main reasons why I'm playing, is to show my son what I do," Daigle said. "Him running around the clubhouse and being a part of it makes it that much more special."
Moehler has been dealing with a sore groin for several weeks, and it began to bother him after he threw his 35th pitch of the game in the third inning. Head athletic trainer Nate Lucero and manager Brad Mills went to the mound to check on Moehler, who finished the inning.
"I'm not concerned about it," he said. "I'd be more concerned if it were my arm. It's not. Something like this, I couldn't locate well. I got lucky in the third inning. You can hurt your arm when your leg is bothering you. It's taken care of and hopefully after the All Star Break it will be a lot better."
Tim Byrdak and Brandon Lyon each threw an inning of scoreless relief, and Matt Lindstrom overcame a pair of hits in the ninth to nail down his 20th save, which matches his career total entering the season.
"We knew we would need two innings from somebody," Mills said. "And with Chacin having a few days off we thought he'd be a good guy to get it from. But Casey came through with two real big innings for us. .. That was sure nice to see."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.