John Ely had his second shaky outing for the Astros (5-3-2), allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings. But the loss was absorbed by Jordan Lyles (0-2), who walked McCutchen with one out in the fifth and saw him advance on a passed ball by Carlos Corporan before Walker's single scored him.
Pirates starter Kyle McPherson bolstered his bid for a rotation spot, as unlikely as it seemed by his final pitching line: four earned runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings. But McPherson held the Astros hitless for 2 2/3 innings before Jake Elmore topped a pitch for a comebacker that went for a 25-foot RBI single that converted a pair of walks. When Chris Carter followed with a clean single, McPherson departed with the bases loaded. Brett Wallace's wind-blown popup evaded shortstop Clint Barmes for a 150-foot three-run double.
The Bucs (3-6) batted around for the first time this spring in a five-run second, featuring Jose Tabata's two-run double, which chased Ely.
The Astros rallied within a run on the wind-blown, bases-clearing double by Wallace that topped off a four-run third that cut the Bucs' lead to 5-4, and tied it on a run-scoring single by J.D. Martinez off Bryan Morris in the fifth.
Up next: Right-hander Jarred Cosart, who has allowed one hit in four scoreless relief innings, gets a start against the Tigers as the Astros visit Lakeland, Fla., for a 12:05 p.m. CT game. Righty Josh Fields, the Rule 5 pick out of the Boston organization, and Alex White are also slated to pitch; neither has yet allowed a run.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.