PITTSBURGH -- Fighting to keep their spot in a crowded American League Wild Card picture, the Astros did exactly what they needed to during a seven-game swing through Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Coming off a series victory over the Orioles, the Astros claimed another over the Pirates with Wednesday's 5-4 win at PNC Park, their fifth win in six games.
Houston got the best of Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole, whose monthlong struggles continued with a disappointing five-inning start.
 
Gattis, Correa lead McHugh, Astros over Pirates
 
Cole allowed five runs on seven hits, the biggest a two-run homer in the second by Astros catcher Evan Gattis. In five starts this month, Cole posted a 6.07 ERA. He was outdueled by Collin McHugh, who allowed seven hits but limited the Pirates to three runs in five innings.
The Pirates' bullpen put together four hitless innings, but the Astros withstood Gregory Polanco's RBI triple in the seventh and got the ball toKen Giles, who pitched a perfect ninth to secure his fifth save. Like Houston, Pittsburgh is trying to gain ground in the Wild Card standings -- but the Bucs have dropped five of their last six, falling three games behind the Cardinals in the National League race.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gatty-bomb: Astros slugger Gattis reached 20 homers for the second year in a row with his two-run shot to center field in the second inning. Gattis has hit half of his homers as a catcher and half as the designated hitter, but his overall production while behind the plate has been much higher than as the DH.
Loud and clear: Coming off back-to-back starts in which he gave up 12 hits, Cole continued to allow hard contact against the Astros. In the third,Carlos Correa's single came off his bat at 107 mph, as measured byStatcast™. Gattis followed with a 413-foot homer with an exit velocity of 106 mph. Marwin Gonzalez laced an RBI triple off Cole in the fourth that came off his bat at 107 mph. Cole finishes the month having allowed 41 hits while only striking out 22 in 26 2/3 innings.
McHugh rebounds: After giving up four homers in the first inning in his previous start in Baltimore -- before even recording his first out -- McHugh snapped a personal four-game losing streak and won for the first time since July 23 by allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings. He was 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in his previous five starts.
Beat the shift: The Astros challenged Polanco all series with one of the most aggressive shifts he's seen: three infielders between first and second base, one outfielder down the left-field line and the other two in the gaps. Polanco beat the shift twice Wednesday, knocking an RBI single through the open left side in the fifth inning and pulling an RBI triple to the mostly open right field in the seventh.
Adam Berry and Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
HOU 0 2 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 5 7 0
PIT 0 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 4 11 1
HR
Gattis1(19)
Mercer1(8)
SCORING SUMMARY HOU PIT
Top 2nd Evan Gattis homers to center. Carlos Correa scores.
Bot 3rd Jordy Mercer homers to left.
Top 4th Marwin Gonzalez triples to right. Carlos Correa scores.
Top 5th Jose Altuve out on a sacrifice fly to center. George Springer scores. Alex Bregman to third.
Top 5th Carlos Correa out on a sacrifice fly to center. Alex Bregman scores.
Bot 5th Starling Marte singles to center. Jordy Mercer scores. John Jaso to third.
Bot 5th Gregory Polanco singles to left. John Jaso scores. Starling Marte to second.
Bot 7th Gregory Polanco triples to right. Matt Joyce scores.
PLAYER STATISTICS
HITTERS AB R H RBI BB SO AVG
G. Springer (RF) 5 1 1 0 0 2 .260
A. Bregman (3B) 4 1 1 0 0 0 .231
J. Altuve (2B) 3 0 0 1 0 1 .361
C. Correa (SS) 3 2 2 1 0 1 .271
E. Gattis (C) 3 1 1 2 1 0 .241
M. Gonzalez (LF) 3 0 1 1 1 0 .251
A. Reed (1B) 3 0 0 0 0 1 .178
C. Devenski 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Y. Gurriel (PH) 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250
W. Harris 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
K. Giles 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
T. Hernandez (CF) 3 0 1 0 1 1 .263
C. McHugh 2 0 0 0 0 1 .000
P. Neshek 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
J. Marisnick (CF) 2 0 0 0 0 1 .217
TEAM 32 5 7 5 3 8 -
PITCHERS IP H R ER BB SO ERA
C. McHugh 5.0 7 3 3 1 4 5.01
P. Neshek 0.2 1 0 0 0 0 2.65
C. Devenski 1.1 2 1 1 1 1 2.36
W. Harris 1.0 1 0 0 0 2 2.54
K. Giles 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 3.58
TEAM 9.0 11 4 4 2 9
HITTERS AB R H RBI BB SO AVG
J. Harrison (2B) 4 0 0 0 0 1 .270
M. Joyce (RF) 4 1 1 0 1 1 .269
S. Marte (CF) 5 0 1 1 0 2 .306
G. Polanco (LF) 5 0 2 2 0 2 .279
J. Bell (1B) 3 0 1 0 1 1 .467
F. Cervelli (C) 4 0 1 0 0 0 .271
S. Rodriguez (3B) 4 0 1 0 0 1 .251
J. Mercer (SS) 4 2 2 1 0 1 .266
G. Cole 1 0 0 0 0 0 .179
J. Jaso (PH) 1 1 1 0 0 0 .257
J. Hughes 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
A. Frazier (PH) 1 0 0 0 0 0 .325
J. Nicasio 0 0 0 0 0 0 .158
F. Rivero 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
A. McCutchen (PH) 1 0 1 0 0 0 .246
T. Watson 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
TEAM 37 4 - 4 2 9 -
PITCHERS IP H R ER BB SO ERA
G. Cole 5.0 7 5 5 1 4 3.55
J. Hughes 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 3.46
J. Nicasio 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 4.67
F. Rivero 1.0 0 0 0 2 1 3.84
T. Watson 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 2.72
TEAM 9.0 7 5 5 3 8
 
CINCINNATI -- The Rangers have placed outfielder Josh Hamilton on unconditional release waivers. If Hamilton goes unclaimed, he will become a free agent.
Hamilton has missed the season because of multiple knee surgeries. The last one was on June 8 to repair a torn ACL and cartilage damage.
Hamilton has made it clear he wants to play next season and is willing to return to the Rangers on a Minor League contract.
"We plan to monitor Josh's progress as he continues his rehab process and is medically cleared this winter," general manager Jon Daniels said.
 
Rangers release Josh Hamilton
 
"Given the rules in place, releasing him before the end of this month allows us to keep the door open to extending the relationship in the future."
The Rangers also recalled pitcher Shawn Tolleson from Triple-A Round Rock and placed him on the 60-day disabled list. He is currently sidelined with a strained lower back.
Tolleson was optioned to Round Rock on July 29 and placed on the disabled list on Aug. 12. This move will keep him from pitching for the Rangers the remainder of the season.
T.R. Sullivan/MLB.com