HOUSTON (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates were hoping to give rookie Dario Agrazal a little early run support against Houston in his second career start.
They ended up giving him much more than that to help him earn his first major league win.
Josh Bell hit his 21st homer, Corey Dickerson had a season-high four hits and three RBIs, and Agrazal threw six strong innings as the Pirates routed the Astros 14-2 on Wednesday night.
Bell connected off rookie Framber Valdez (3-4) for a two-run shot in the first inning and the Pirates added two runs each in the second and third to build a 6-1 lead and cruise to their fifth victory in six games.
“It was huge compared to his last outing where the game was close,” Bell said about Agrazal. “Give him a little run support and allow him to stay out there a little longer. He pitched himself out of a jam there in a couple of innings and then was rolling for the rest.”
Pittsburgh led 8-2 entering the ninth before tacking on six runs when Houston manager AJ Hinch sent first baseman Tyler White to the mound with his team way behind.
Agrazal (1-0), called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game, yielded five hits and one run.
“Very steady and very poised,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “And on top of that, he made pitches, because he pitched out of the stretch quite a bit. … Kept them off the plate, changed speeds, fastball to four corners, slider, changeup played, a lot of poise. Got outs when he needed them.”
Jung Ho Kang added a two-run homer for Pittsburgh. Kevin Newman had four hits, capped by a two-run homer, to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games — longest in the majors.
George Springer had three hits, including a leadoff homer in his second game back from the injured list. But the AL West-leading Astros failed to generate much offense as they lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
Valdez had a second straight tough outing, getting tagged for eight hits and six runs — both career highs — in just three innings. He was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock after the game.
The performance came after he gave up four hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings of a loss to the Yankees last time out.
“He was battling himself from the very beginning of the game,” Hinch said. “The home run by Bell, which he has done a lot this year, puts you down, and we just could never get on the good side of the game while he was in there. Six runs in three innings and 70 pitches. It just looked like he was out of sync.”
Bell gave Pittsburgh the early lead with his two-out, two-strike home run to the second deck in right field.
Springer opened the bottom of the inning with his sixth leadoff homer this season.
The Pirates padded the lead in the second when Elias Díaz doubled with no outs and scored on a double by Dickerson. Newman singled with two outs to score Dickerson and make it 4-1.
Pittsburgh extended its advantage to 6-1 with two outs in the third on a two-run single by Dickerson.
Chris Devenski took over for the fourth inning and retired the first six batters he faced before Dickerson led off the sixth with another double. Kang’s sixth homer put the Pirates up 8-1.
White, pitching for the fourth time this season, allowed a three-run homer to straightaway center field by José Osuna that made it 11-2. Pittsburgh added a run on a sacrifice fly before Newman’s homer with two outs pushed it to 14-2.
There were runners at first and second with two outs when White was lifted for backup catcher Max Stassi, who retired Bell on a fly ball to end the inning in his first career pitching appearance.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon, who hasn’t been throwing since going on the injured list in early May, is expected to play catch this weekend. Taillon, who has a flexor strain in his right elbow, was the team’s opening day starter.
OUT OF POSITION
Hinch knows some people are amused when position players pitch, but he hates doing it. He put White in hoping to save his bullpen with a quick inning.
“It’s brutal. It’s embarrassing,” Hinch said. “I feel bad for White. I apologized to him on the way off the field because I never want to use him. It’s not funny. I know it’s entertaining for the masses when you see something unique or something that’s not there, but I think it sucks. I don’t want to hurt him. I think it was way too many pitches.”
White threw 38 pitches and set a franchise record for most pitching appearances by a position player in a season.
Pirates: RHP Joe Musgrove (5-7, 4.57 ERA) will pitch for Pittsburgh when the series wraps up Thursday. Musgrove, traded to the Pirates in the deal that brought Gerrit Cole to Houston, picked up the win for the Astros in relief in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series.
Astros: RHP Brad Peacock (6-5, 3.62) is scheduled to start Thursday. Peacock allowed two runs and struck out 11 over six innings in his last start but took the loss in a 4-1 defeat against the Yankees.