One start after criticizing his club’s emphasis on defensive shifts, Astros No. 2 starter Lucas Harrell happily passed out praise Sunday.

Harrell cited the work of pitching coach Doug Brocail, who observed Harrell wasn’t removing his hand from his glove pre-delivery as quickly as he did in the 2012 season. Brocail also pushed Harrell to improve his fastball command on both corners of the plate.

By locating his fastball, relying on a nasty sinker and throwing with confidence, Harrell, 27, shook off frustration and unleashed his most efficient outing of the year during a 1-0 defeat to the Pirates at PNC Park.

The righthander didn’t allow a hit until Pedro Alvarez’s home run into the left-field corner with one out in the fifth. Harrell exited the game having given up four hits and one run in seven innings. He struck out three and walked one on 97 pitches while recording 13 groundouts.

“(Sunday) was the first game this year where I really dominated both sides of the plate with my sinker,” Harrell said. “(Carlos) Corporan and I had a great game plan. He did his homework, and I just followed along with his plan. I didn’t shake off much and just kind of rolled with it. The defense played great behind me.”

The key to Corporan’s plan as catcher: sinker, sinker and more sinker.

“Down, in and away. Basically that’s it. I think he could’ve pitched (Monday) if he wanted,” said Corporan, who only called a few curves.