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Another day, another annihilation of Astros


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Kevin Newman rounds the bases after leading off the game with a home run against the Astros on Thursday at Minute Maid Park - AP

HOUSTON – Clint Hurdle often says that it’s not who you play but when you play them. Never was that more evident than the past three days.

The Pirates caught the Astros at the right time during their visit to Minute Maid Park, taking advantage of the American League West leaders coming off a 1-6 road trip by annihilating them in the final two games of the series, including by 10-0 Thursday. A day after going deep four times Wednesday night in a 14-2 rout, they cleared the fences five times Thursday.

Which meant not only that the Pirates produced 24 runs here in less than 24 hours but also:

• Became the first team ever to win back-to-back interleague games by 10-plus runs.

• Became the fourth National League team since 1900 to hit four-plus home runs and four-plus doubles in consecutive games.

• Became the first within the franchise to hit as many as four home runs in consecutive games since 2006.

Also not to be overlooked, the Pirates won for the sixth time in seven games in handing the Astros their first home series loss all season.

Asked to describe how good it all felt, Hurdle looked across the hallway, where loud music was emanating from the player’s dressing area.

“You can hear them,” he said. “So many different guys contributed. We had top-shelf pitching. Hard contact. Ran the bases. Played good defense. It was fun to watch our team compete and win a series like this.”

Kevin Newman got the homer barrage going by hitting the first pitch of the game from Brad Peacock to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Corey Dickerson hit a two-run shot later in the first inning to push the Pirates’ lead to 4-0.

“It’s a shot of adrenaline,” Hurdle said of Newman’s leadoff homer. “Every day, guys call it from the bench, home run on the first pitch, but it usually doesn’t happen — in fact, it rarely happens. That’s the way Kevin is going right now. He’s making hard contact consistently."

Here was Newman's blast:

Josh Bell hit a two-run homer in the third, then Starling Marte and Jacob Stallings added solo shots to make it 8-0 by the sixth inning.

And this was Bell's team-leading 22nd homer:

It was Stallings’ first career home run in 41 games and 116 plate appearances. He went 3 for 3 with a walk and smiled when I asked him what he’ll remember about his first home run, which came off Cy Sneed, who was making his major-league debut.

“That Colin Moran will get off me about not having a home run,” Stallings said. “I’ve been getting closer to getting one and he’s been getting on me about needing to lift more weights. Now he can stop.”

Stallings also got a celebratory shower from his teammates.

“I think they used every liquid that was in the clubhouse, but it was fun,” Stallings said. “It’s good to know your teammates care about you and want to celebrate a special moment.”

The run support was plenty for Joe Musgrove (6-7), who scattered nine hits over six scoreless innings to win his second consecutive start. All nine hits were singles as he combined with Michael Feliz, Clay Holmes and Geoff Hartlieb on the shutout. The three relievers did not allow a hit.

“It’s not very often you see a pitcher give up nine singles and nobody touches the plate,” Hurdle said.

Musgrove made big pitches when he had to with a large arsenal of offerings.

“He had all his pitches working today,” Stallings said. “When you have four or five different pitches that you’re throwing effectively, you’re going to have a good game.”

It figured to be an emotional day for Musgrove, who began his career with the Astros, pitching for them during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The last time he pitched at Minute Maid Park, he got credit for the win in Game 5 of the World Series against the Dodgers.

However, Musgrove was able to block out the feelings and concentrate on getting outs.

“I was as locked in as I was in a long time,” he said. “I wanted to go out there and do well. I gave hits but I was able to get outs when I needed to and that’s always big. It felt good to win but it was a good team win. A lot of people contributed. We played two really good ballgames in a row here against an outstanding team."

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