Moehler masterful against Pirates

Moehler masterful against Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- As much as it felt good to get a win, the Astros could afford to get a little greedy.

Holding a six-run lead in the final two innings, the Astros saw an opportunity to get a respected veteran something he hadn't had since the waning days of the Clinton administration.

Brian Moehler (2-3) pitched his first complete game since Aug. 8, 2000, allowing seven hits and two walks in Houston's 6-1 win over the Pirates on Friday night, a victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak.

"We all wanted him to finish it, and heck, I wanted him to get a shutout," manager Cecil Cooper said. "He came in after the eighth and said, 'I'm going back.' He said it before I could say anything to him, so he's pretty excited about it, and we're glad he got the complete game. And then more than that, we got a win."

The Astros hadn't allowed fewer than two runs in a game since a Wandy Rodriguez shutout on May 8.

Moehler was on his way to his first shutout since Aug. 30, 1999. Through seven innings, he had allowed only five baserunners -- and none advanced past second base.

That changed in the eighth, as he began to tire. But Moehler did all but shoo away Cooper on multiple occasions during the final two innings, lest the manager consider taking him out.

"In the eighth, he just asked me if I wanted to go get this guy, and in the ninth, he said, 'How do you feel? You OK?' and I told him, 'You know, we're up 6-0, so there's no point in taking me out right there,'" Moehler said. "I was able to talk him out of it, and we got the win."

"I just wanted to know if he was OK and if he had a little more in the tank," Cooper said. "He said, 'I'm fine, let me get this guy.' I said, 'Well, go get him.'"

Moehler couldn't even remember the previous time he'd thrown more than 120 pitches ("2006, maybe?"), but most of the 123 he threw on Friday (85 for strikes) were good ones. Consistently in the zone -- low in the zone -- he used all three of his pitches (fastball, curveball and changeup) effectively.

"Tonight he was good. He mixed his pitches well, and he pitched down in the zone," Cooper said. "When he had to go up, he was able to throw up with effect. He was just sharp tonight."

The only run Pittsburgh scored came on a Jason Jaramillo groundout for the second out of the ninth.

"Any time anyone goes out there and throws a complete game, they're doing something right," said Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche, who went 2-for-4. "He hit his spots well. He mixed it up. He threw a lot of strikes. Any time you've got a pitcher out there painting and hitting his spots, it's going to be a long night. That's what it was for us.

"Everybody that went out there got some pitches to hit today, but when he only gives you one pitch in an at-bat to hit, and you don't capitalize on it, it's going to be tough. He went out there and made the pitches when he wanted to, and the results speak for themselves."

Since being reinstated from the disabled list on May 4, Moehler is 2-1 with a 3.90 ERA. He had a horrible start to the season, allowing 12 runs on 15 hits in four innings over two starts (one, ironically, at PNC Park). But since his stint on the DL, necessitated by a sprained right knee, he has allowed two runs or fewer during three of five outings.

"I'm just tickled that he was able to get us into the ninth inning and was able to complete it," Cooper said. "We said earlier in the evening, if he could give us seven solid innings, that's what we look for out of our starters. And he did a great job for us tonight. He took it all the way."

Chris Adamski is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.