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HOU@PIT: Harrison wins it with a walk-off single

PITTSBURGH -- Reviving a favorite early-season ploy, the Pirates on Sunday waited out Wandy Rodriguez, then two-timed his relief. It had worked against Cliff Lee and Ian Kennedy, among others, so why shouldn't the rope-a-dope work against the Houston Astros?

No reason at all. On cue, the Bucs first tied Sunday's game in the bottom of the ninth, then closed the deal in the bottom of the 12th for a 3-2 win in the rubber game at PNC Park, their fourth walk-off victory of the season.

The Pirates thus pushed off on a week-long road trip with a 5-4 homestand by taking the last two from Houston.

"I would've given a small body part two days ago to have a 5-4 homestand, and now we got it," manager Clint Hurdle said enthusiastically minutes after Josh Harrison's two-out single had scored Clint Barmes with the winner.

Barmes had doubled with two outs to set up end-game on a day of wall-to-wall Rodriguez. Reliever Fernando Rodriguez (1-4) surrendered hits to the only two men he faced after Wandy Rodriguez had been so brilliant over a longer haul.

"This was certainly more fun, getting a hit that helps lead to a win," said Barmes, whose overall struggles have not been evident when facing one of his former teams.

Chimed in Harrison, while still wiping remnants of the walk-off pie off his face, "That was exciting. I'm still on cloud nine."

Against Colorado and Houston, the only two teams for which he had played prior to signing with the Pirates as a free agent, Barmes is 8-for-18, for half of his season total of 16 hits. The 12th-inning at-bat was his first of a game he had started on the bench, with Harrison taking over at short.

At the end, Harrison was still at short while Barmes was making his first-ever appearance as a first baseman. But that's the disorderly way it usually is at the end of marathons. Such as the Pirates using five pitchers behind A.J. Burnett -- Jason Grilli, Joel Hanrahan, Juan Cruz and Tony Watson (3-0) to pitch hitless ball across the final four frames, and pitcher James McDonald to pinch-hit (he struck out).

Also by the end, the majority of an original crowd of 27,517 had departed for those special Mother's Day dinners around town.

The way Hurdle saw it, those who stuck around got the better of the deal.

"Bonus baseball for all the moms. Is there anything better than that?" Hurdle asked, flushed with victory.

The Bucs had rallied into a ninth-inning tie after having been totally manhandled for the final 7 1/3 of Rodriguez's eight-inning start.

Brett Myers came on to protect a 2-1 lead after Rodriguez had faced he minimum 22 batters over his last 7 1/3 innings.

"He had thrown the ball extremely well," Houston manager Brad Mills conceded of his starter. "Was he tiring? I think ... he still had plenty of pitches to go. We're put into a situation where [Jose] Tabata will be the first hitter and [Andrew] McCutchen would have been the third hitter, and they've been swinging the bat [well] this series. It was the right thing to do to get Myers in the game."

Counting their collective 1-for-7 in this game, Tabata and McCutchen at that point were a combined 4-for-35 lifetime against Rodriguez.

And Myers immediately invited trouble by walking Tabata. Neil Walker followed with his second double of the game, which forced the Astros to walk McCutchen and load the bases. Alvarez lined to left for the game-tying sacrifice fly, but Myers got out of further trouble.

The game began following a 29-minute delay for showers to abate, and by the seventh inning the field conditions were saturated enough to conspire against the Pirates in Houston's go-ahead seventh-inning rally.

Carlos Lee, the big man who never gets an infield hit, got one when his one-out chopper sloshed to a halt short of where Alvarez had a shot at throwing him out. After Brian Bogusevic dropped a blooper in front of McCutchen in center, Chris Johnson rolled a single into left that again slowed enough on the wet grass to allow Lee to score without a play, giving Houston the 2-1 lead.

"The conditions may not have been the best, but I've pitched in worse and you just try to stick to your game plan and not get caught up in that," said A.J. Burnett, who tendered a tenacious eight-inning effort of his own.

Burnett had taken a one-hit shutout into the fifth inning, when he crossed the small margin of error to which Pittsburgh pitchers have had to get accustomed to. McCutchen over-leaped a leadoff drive to the warning track by Lee that went for a double, and Jason Castro singled with two outs to tie it at 1.

"It was a misty rain and the wind was blowing in," said Lee, who off the bat thought the drive would go out. "When I hit that ball, I hit that ball good. I thought it was going out, but it's a big part of the park there too."

The Pirates' habitual -- OK, only a two-day habit -- first-inning run had been delivered by McCutchen, whose double converted Walker's one-out double. That hit was McCutchen's seventh consecutive off a left-hander.

In his eight, Burnett allowed six hits and two runs, while striking out four without issuing a walk.

"Didn't feel too good," Burnett said. "But it's all about fighting through."

And making the back-end of that bullpen relevant.

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