HOUSTON - JUNE 16: Garrett Jones #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a three run home run in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 16, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Pirates Vs. Astros: Bucs Sweep Houston With 5-4 Victory, Begin Contending In NL Central

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Pirates Vs. Astros: Bucs Sweep Houston With 5-4 Victory, Begin Contending In NL Central

Garrett Jones' three-run homer in the top of the first inning propelled the Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, as the Pirates moved to two games above .500. The win brought the Pirates within 3.5 games of the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. The win also completed a sweep of the Astros.

Jones' three-run homer over the right-field fence proved to be important, as Astros starter Jordan Lyles pitched very well for several innings after that, while James McDonald was shaky. McDonald allowed two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth to tie the game, and ended the game with four strikeouts and four walks in 5.2 innings. McDonald also dodged a bullet in the third when Carlos Lee doubled to left. Jose Tabata nearly caught the ball at the wall, but instead picked up the ball on one bounce and threw it to Ronny Cedeno, who made a remarkable throw home to nail Hunter Pence.

The Pirates took the lead again in the sixth when Jones hit a ball that bounced off Michael Bourn's glove, scoring Andrew McCutchen. Josh Harrison then hit an RBI double to increase the Pirates' lead to 5-3.

The Bucs called on Jose Veras to pitch the ninth because Joel Hanrahan was unavailable after pitching three straight days. Veras allowed two singles and one run, but got Lee to ground to third. Brandon Wood booted the ball, but managed to recover and narrowly catch Lee at first.

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