Pirates-Astros Preview

As frustrating as this season has been for the Houston Astros,

they continue to play well within their division, especially

against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Astros look to improve to 5-0 against the Pirates as the

teams continue a three-game series Wednesday night at Minute Maid

Park.

While Houston (33-51) has one of the worst records in the major

leagues, it is 16-12 against the NL Central, including 4-0 against

Pittsburgh (30-53). The Astros posted a 6-2 win over the Pirates on

Tuesday, snapping a three-game overall losing streak during which

they totaled two runs and got shut out twice.

Houston has scored at least five runs in each of its last six

games against teams from its own division. It’s among the

lowest-scoring teams in the majors overall this season with 3.5

runs per game, but it has outscored Pittsburgh 25-10 while batting

.313 over their four meetings.

Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman homered Tuesday and Wandy Rodriguez

struck out 10 in seven innings. Lee, who is 5 for 13 with three

extra-base hits and five RBIs in three games against the Pirates,

came in batting .125 in his previous four games. He had not homered

since June 12.

Lee and the Astros will try to clinch the series win Wednesday

against a Pittsburgh team that continues to struggle on the road.

Although the Pirates came in having won five of seven, they have

averaged 2.4 runs while dropping 19 of their last 21 on the

road.

That could be a good sign for Brian Moehler (1-4, 5.20 ERA), who

will take the mound for Houston. Moehler gave up one run in 5 2-3

innings of a 6-3, 10-inning win over San Diego on Friday. He has a

2.70 ERA over his last three starts.

“What a great job he did,” manager Brad Mills told the Astros’

official website. “He put us in a position to win a ballgame again,

and you can’t say enough about what he did.”

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in the last three starts

against Pittsburgh.

The Pirates, who have lost 14 of their last 17 at Minute Maid

Park, will hand the ball to Daniel McCutchen (1-3, 8.87), who may

be losing his spot in the rotation when Zach Duke returns from the

disabled list after the All-Star break.

McCutchen gave up two runs – one earned – in 5 1-3 innings of a

3-2 win over Philadelphia on Thursday. It was his second start

since being recalled from the minors to replace Duke. The

right-hander gave up four runs in six innings of a 5-0 loss to

Oakland on June 26.

McCutchen pitched one scoreless inning of relief against Houston

on April 24 for his only time facing the Astros.