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Fri, May 17, 2013 - 7:05 PM ET
 

Astros-Pirates Preview

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The Houston Astros' transition to the AL hasn't gone very smoothly, but their first trip to an NL park may be able to give them a jolt.

Houston opens a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night looking to prevent its former NL Central rivals from winning for a seventh time in eight tries.

After 51 seasons in the NL, the Astros were shifted to the AL West to balance out the divisions. The results have been similar, though, since they moved, getting off to an 11-30 start - tied with Miami for baseball's worst record - after finishing 56-106 in 2011 and 55-107 last season.

Houston has yet to play an interleague series, and manager Bo Porter doesn't discount that playing in an NL park could help his club.

"We're looking forward to going to Pittsburgh and playing the National League style of baseball again," Porter told the team's official website.

Houston snapped a six-game losing streak with a 7-5 win over Detroit on Wednesday, as J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer.

Martinez went 5 for 10 with four extra-base hits in the three-game series with Detroit after going hitless with six strikeouts in his previous 10 at-bats.

"When he gets going ... he's a run producer," Porter said, "That's led to the decision of giving him an opportunity to play every day. We believe he's a guy that can be a middle-of-the-order run producer."

Jordan Lyles has gotten the opportunity to be a part of Houston's starting rotation after a rough spring had him beginning the season in the minors, but he's been largely unimpressive in three big league outings.

Lyles (1-1, 8.36 ERA) gave up a career-worst eight runs and 11 hits and also balked in a run in four innings of a 12-7 loss to Texas on Sunday.

He hasn't been very good against the Pirates, either, going 0-4 with a 7.77 ERA in five starts.

"Faced them a couple times, hadn't had my way with them," Lyles told the team's official website. "Their heart of the lineup is pretty good with (Andrew) McCutchen, so I've got to make pitches."

McCutchen is hitting just .265 this season after setting career highs in average (.327), homers (31) and RBIs (96) in 2012, but he went 2 for 5 with an RBI single in Thursday's 7-1 win over Milwaukee.

The Pirates (24-17) have won six of seven, outscoring opponents 36-17 in that stretch.

''We're in a good place right now,'' manager Clint Hurdle said.

McCutchen hit .381 with two homers and six doubles as Pittsburgh went 12-5 versus the Astros last season, winning eight of 10 at home.

The Pirates look to get this series started on a positive note with help from starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez, who has shined since entering the rotation.

Gomez (2-0, 2.28) is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts after giving up one run and two hits in five innings of Sunday's 3-2 win over the New York Mets.

The right-hander has taken advantage of his opportunity with the Pirates after going 2-6 with an 8.74 ERA in his last 10 starts of 2012 with Cleveland. One of those outings came against Houston on June 23, when he allowed five runs - including a two-run homer to Martinez - in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-1 defeat.

Tagged: Astros, Pirates, Andrew McCutchen

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