Houston (60-67) at Pittsburgh (49-78)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 86° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Thu Aug 24, 2006
  • TV: FSSW, FSPI
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Houston Astros look to finish with a successful road trip when they begin a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Thursday.

The Astros have gone 3-4 so far on their longest trip of the season, splitting four games with Milwaukee and salvaging a game against Cincinnati with a 7-3 victory over the Reds on Wednesday.

Houston (60-67) is six games behind Cincinnati in the NL wild-card standings, and, despite Wednesday’s win, has lost nine of its past 12 games.

“We lost a lot of ground the last three or four days,” said starter Roy Oswalt, who improved to 16-1 lifetime against Cincinnati on Wednesday. “We’ve got to go to Pittsburgh and pretty much sweep the Pirates.”

Sweeping Pittsburgh (49-78), the worst team in the NL, would be a good way to gain ground on the Reds. The Astros swept the Pirates in three games at home Aug. 8-10 and are 7-2 against Pittsburgh in the season series.

Houston has also won 10 of the past 12 meetings between the teams.

Wandy Rodriguez (9-7, 5.37 ERA) looks to win for the first time in nearly two months when he takes the mound for Houston on Thursday. The left-hander has just one victory since June 11, a 9-5 win over the Rangers on July 2 in which he allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings.

Since then, Rodriguez has lost both starts he’s made and also came out of the bullpen twice, allowing one run in each of those two appearances.

His struggles led to a demotion to Triple-A Round Rock on July 20 before being recalled on Saturday to start against Milwaukee. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings against the Brewers, allowing three hits and four runs in a 6-4 defeat.

“He lost control,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “He couldn’t throw the ball over the plate.”

Rodriguez is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this season and 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA in three career outings versus the Pirates.

Pittsburgh beat Atlanta 5-4 on Wednesday night, taking the last two games of the three-game set and winning only its third road series of the season.

Freddy Sanchez hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh for the Pirates, who have won nine of their past 13 at PNC Park.

After Tom Gorzelanny reported discomfort in his throwing elbow, his turn in the rotation was skipped, meaning Paul Maholm (5-10, 4.86) will start for the Pirates on Thursday.

Maholm got hit hard in his last outing, giving up a season-high seven runs and 10 hits in five innings to Cincinnati on Saturday, but didn’t record a decision in the Pirates’ 14-7 loss.

Saturday’s start followed his best outing of the season, when he allowed eight hits in 6 2-3 innings to beat St. Louis 7-0 on Aug. 13.

“For some reason, that first inning again,” said Maholm, who has allowed 28 first-inning runs in 25 starts this season, including 16 in his last eight outings. Maholm’s first-inning ERA now is 9.72. “After I got through that, I wanted to go four or five innings and save the bullpen.”

Maholm is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in three career starts against Houston, all of them this season.

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Starting Pitchers

W. Rodríguez Pit vs. P. Maholm LAD
9-10 Record 8-10
5.64 ERA 4.76
98 K 117
63 BB 81
1.60 WHIP 1.61

Scoreboard

Thursday, Aug 24