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Mon, Jul 2, 2012 - 7:05 PM ET
 

Astros-Pirates Preview

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The Pittsburgh Pirates return home from a successful trip hoping two of their key players will be back on the field.

It's uncertain if All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and third baseman Pedro Alvarez will be in the lineup Monday night when the Pirates try to hand the struggling Houston Astros a season-high seventh straight road loss.

One day after spraining his wrist diving for a ball, McCutchen watched as Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak ended with a 5-4 loss at St. Louis on Sunday. Named to the NL All-Star team for the second straight year, McCutchen is batting .346 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Considered day to day, McCutchen is not the only Pirate hurting. Alvarez left in the eighth inning Sunday with leg cramps.

"That's all it was,'' manager Clint Hurdle said of Alvarez, who is 5 for 14 with two home runs and nine RBIs in his last four games. "It was tightening up, so we didn't want to push him.''

Catcher Michael McKenry should be in the lineup after belting a three-run homer Sunday. McKenry is batting .440 (11 for 25) with three home runs and nine RBIs in his last seven games, but is hitless in his last 11 at-bats versus Houston.

Despite the team's health concerns, Pittsburgh (43-35) finished 4-3 on its road trip and is one game behind first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central.

"We are pleased," Hurdle said.

James McDonald (7-3, 2.44 ERA) will look to win his third straight start for the Pirates on Monday. Coming off his first career complete game, McDonald gave up two first-inning homers Wednesday and allowed four runs in 5 2-3, but got credit for an 11-7 victory at Philadelphia.

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.19 ERA in six starts versus Houston. He limited the Astros to one run and four hits and struck out eight in eight innings May 11, but got charged with a 1-0 home loss.

That victory was only Houston's fifth in its last 17 games at PNC Park.

The Astros (32-47) matched a season high with their sixth straight road defeat, falling 3-0 on Sunday at Chicago for their second shutout loss in three games. Houston has totaled 10 runs during its road skid, and five while losing four in a row overall.

"I feel like we're going up there and swinging at a lot of pitchers' pitches," said outfielder J.D. Martinez, who has three hits in the last two games. "We're not making the pitchers come to us. It's been a struggle.''

Carlos Lee had one of the Astros' four hits Sunday, and it appears that hit likely won't be his last for Houston. Reports Sunday night indicated that the veteran slugger, who has a no-trade clause, decided he would not accept being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Named to his first All-Star game, second baseman Jose Altuve went 1 for 4 on Sunday in his first game after missing six with a hamstring injury. He's only 2 for 19 in his last six games versus Pittsburgh.

Scheduled Houston starter Jordan Lyles (2-4, 4.59) has allowed three runs in 13 1-3 innings while splitting his last two starts. The right-hander snapped a personal three-game losing streak Tuesday, when he yielded a solo homer but overcame four walks in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 victory over San Diego.

Tagged: Astros, Pirates, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez

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