Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Pedro Alvarez clubbed a three-run home run and Zach Duke was solid on the mound in Pittsburgh's 6-4 win over Houston in the middle test of a three-game set.
Jose Tabata and Ryan Doumit delivered run-scoring singles and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and scored twice for the Pirates, who defeated Houston for just a third time in 14 meetings this season.
Duke (8-14) allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three over six-plus innings to win for the 31st time at PNC Park, the most of any pitcher in the 10-year history of the stadium.
"I feel like I'm back to where I want to be...Hopefully I can go into my last start and give us another chance to win," Duke said.
Bud Norris (9-9) took the loss after yielding five runs on seven hits and three walks while fanning six over 4 2/3 innings for the Astros, who have lost four of their last five games.
Joel Hanrahan assumed the hill in the ninth with a three-run cushion. Pinch- hitter Anderson Hernandezworked a one-out walk and scored on a two-out double by pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic that made it a two-run game.
Geoff Blum then hit a bouncing ball past first baseman Garrett Jones that was fielded by the second basemanNeil Walker, who threw to Hanrahan covering for the final out as the right-hander nailed down his sixth save.
Chris Johnson singled home Jason Michaels in the second inning to get the scoring started.
Alvarez belted his three-run home run in the third to give the hosts their first lead before the Astros answered with Humberto Quintero's two-run double in the fourth to tie the game.
The Pirates reclaimed the lead for good in the fifth on run-scoring singles by Tabata and Doumit that knocked Norris out of the game.
Duke was removed after Quintero's leadoff single in the seventh and replaced by Sean Gallagher.
The right-hander got pinch-hitter Matt Downs to fly out and Jason Bourgeois to ground into an inning-ending double play and Evan Meek followed with a scoreless eighth inning.
Alvarez singled to start the home eighth and moved to third on a one-out double by Alex Presley that chasedWesley Wright from the mound.
Matt Lindstrom took over and uncorked a wild pitch that plated Alvarez to make it 6-3 and pushed Presley to third. The right-hander avoided any further damage by getting Ronny Cedeno and pinch-hitter Delwyn Young to ground out.
"We've talked about being able to close out innings, and tonight they hurt us with two-out hits," said Astros manager Brad Mills, who had his contract extended through the 2011 season on Saturday.
Duke is 31-31 in 81 career starts at home...He is 3-5 in 12 games, 11 starts, against Houston...McCutchen has reached base in 20 straight games...The Pirates have won eight of their last 11 home games...Pittsburgh has an extra-base hit in 37 straight games...Houston had won 10 of Norris's last 11 starts before Saturday...He is 2-2 in his career against the Buccos...The Astros are 21-8 against the Pirates since the start of last season.