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Walker's bat wakes up as Bucs down Astros

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Neil Walker's fifth-inning RBI single converted the third walk drawn by Andrew McCutchen to snap a 5-5 tie, as the Pirates went on to an 8-6 victory over the Astros on Sunday to snap a six-game Grapefruit League losing streak.

Walker, who also singled to spark a five-run second, collected his first two hits of the spring.

John Ely had his second shaky outing for the Astros (5-3-2), allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings. But the loss was absorbed by Jordan Lyles (0-2), who walked McCutchen with one out in the fifth and saw him advance on a passed ball by Carlos Corporan before Walker's single scored him.

Pirates starter Kyle McPherson bolstered his bid for a rotation spot, as unlikely as it seemed by his final pitching line: four earned runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings. But McPherson held the Astros hitless for 2 2/3 innings before Jake Elmore topped a pitch for a comebacker that went for a 25-foot RBI single that converted a pair of walks. When Chris Carter followed with a clean single, McPherson departed with the bases loaded. Brett Wallace's wind-blown popup evaded shortstop Clint Barmes for a 150-foot three-run double.

The Bucs (3-6) batted around for the first time this spring in a five-run second, featuring Jose Tabata's two-run double, which chased Ely.

The Astros rallied within a run on the wind-blown, bases-clearing double by Wallace that topped off a four-run third that cut the Bucs' lead to 5-4, and tied it on a run-scoring single by J.D. Martinez off Bryan Morris in the fifth.

Up next: A.J. Burnett makes his second start of the spring, as the Pirates host Philadelphia at 1:05 p.m. ET at McKechnie Field. Also scheduled to pitch is lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who will depart later in the day to join Team Dominican Republic in Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic. This will be the first of two preseason meetings with the Phillies, one of only two National League teams on the Bucs' Grapefruit League schedule.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata