Houston (9-9) at Pittsburgh (7-10)

  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Tue Apr 24, 2007
  • TV: FSSW, FSPI
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A three-game sweep by the Pittsburgh Pirates contributed to the Houston Astros opening 2007 on a four-game slide.

Now the Astros look to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the early season when they meet the Pirates in the opener of a three-game series on Tuesday night.

Houston (9-9) has won six straight in Pittsburgh (7-10), and was 7-3 against the Pirates last year at PNC Park.

The Astros had won nine of 11 after struggling early, but have started sliding in the other direction again. In an 11-4 loss to Philadelphia on Monday in the makeup of an April 15 rainout, Houston allowed season-highs in runs and hits (20).

“We got the ball up and they didn’t miss too many of them,” Astros manager Phil Garner said.

Mark Loretta had a two-run double and Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman homered for the Astros, who are 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the NL Central lead.

Houston’s rotation, which has posted a 7.76 ERA over the last five games with just one quality start, will look to Woody Williams (0-2, 6.55 ERA) to get them out of that funk.

The Houston native signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal in November after two seasons with San Diego, but still is searching for his first win with his new team. The 40-year-old right-hander gave up six runs and seven hits over seven innings, but didn’t factor in an 8-6 win over Cincinnati on Thursday.

The right-hander also sustained a bad bruise on his right shin when he was hit with a grounder, but says he’s ready to go. Williams is 7-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 14 career starts versus the Pirates despite struggling in his Houston debut against them - he allowed three earned runs and eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 5-4 loss on April 4.

Pittsburgh’s Paul Maholm (0-2, 6.19) will try again for his first win of 2007. The left-hander allowed five runs and 10 hits over six innings in a 7-3 defeat to Milwaukee on Wednesday, but wasn’t disappointed with his performance.

“My mechanics were the best they’ve been in a long time,” he told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I was ahead of guys, kept the pitch count down and I was getting mainly ground balls … I’ll go back and look and I guess revise the game plan.”

Maholm is 1-2 with a 6.53 ERA in four career starts versus Houston.

This is the opener of a nine-game homestand all against division rivals at PNC Park, where the Pirates have scored just nine runs and are 0-4. Pittsburgh returns after a 3-4 road trip, which concluded with a 7-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

Adam LaRoche homered, and Chris Duffy had three hits, stole two bases and scored three runs as Pittsburgh snapped a four-game skid.

“For the first time in a while, we had some sustained offense,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.

Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista is hitting .317 (13-for-41) during a career-best 10-game hitting streak. He’s 6-for-13 against the Astros this season with two doubles and three RBIs.

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Starting Pitchers

W. Williams HOU vs. P. Maholm CIN
8-15 Record 10-15
5.27 ERA 5.02
101 K 105
53 BB 49
1.43 WHIP 1.42

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Apr 24