Pirates power into first

PITTSBURGH – After getting the hanging slider he was looking for, Drew Sutton thought the ball needed some help after he made contact with it.

“I knew I hit it well,” Sutton said, “but I didn’t know if it was deep-straightaway-center well.

“But I was yelling at it.”

Soon, so was everyone else at PNC Park.

Sutton hit a one-out solo homer in the bottom of the ninth, and the Pittsburgh Pirates improved to eight games over .500 for the first time in 20 years with an 8-7 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

The win, coupled with Cincinnati’s 3-1 loss at Los Angeles, moved the Pirates into a tie for first place in the National League Central.

Acquired via waivers last week, Sutton homered for the first time since Oct. 3, 2010, lifting the Pirates to their sixth walk-off win of the season.

“It’s why we play the game,” said Sutton, who is with his third major league team this season. “Even guys like me, who bounce around from team to team, every once in a while, you get a moment. You’d better enjoy it.”

Unlike in recent years, the Pirates have had plenty of enjoyable moments lately. Pittsburgh (44-36), which has won six of seven, is this far over .500 for the first time since the final day of the 1992 season.

That was the most recent season in which the Pirates had a winning record, 1992. A North American major professional sports record 19 consecutive losing seasons have followed.

Pittsburgh rallied from deficits of 4-0 and 6-2 to take a 7-6 lead on Garrett Jones’ two-run homer in the seventh. But with Houston down to its last strike in the ninth, pinch hitter Jason Castro drove in Jed Lowrie with a double.

“Our resiliency has always been there, and now it’s showing,” said Pedro Alvarez, who had a pinch-hit, two-run single in his first action since leaving a game Sunday with leg cramps. “It’s selflessness from everybody. When you have a group of guys who are invested in each other, things like that show.”

Andrew McCutchen continued his recent torrid pace by going 3-for-4 with a home run, taking over the NL batting lead at .360. He is 7-for-9 in the series and 13-for-18 in his past four games.

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