Following a dramatic victory their last time out, the Pirates look to win consecutive series over the struggling Astros for the first time in more than 27 years as they wrap up the three-game set on Thursday.
“Those innings wear on you, you’re watching the clock, the West Coast games are getting over with, and it’s hard to stay locked in,” said LaRoche, who had been 0-for-18 at PNC Park before his game-winning hit. “To lose those, I don’t want to say it sets you back as a team, but it hurts when you know you’ve battled that hard for that long and come out with nothing.”
The Astros (9-11) outhit the Pirates 16-10 but stranded 18 runners—eight in extra innings.
“We played so hard, it’s very disappointing,” manager Phil Garner said. “We battled so hard, we got 16 hits but we couldn’t get one when we needed one. We’ve got to come up with that big hit and close that game out.”
Pittsburgh has won all five games over the Astros this season after going just 3-13 against them in 2006.
The Pirates have not swept consecutive series over Houston in the same season since 1979, when they won a three-game set at the Astrodome July 10-12 and a four-game series at Three Rivers Stadium July 19-21.
Pittsburgh sends Tony Armas (0-2, 18.90 ERA) to the hill for the series finale.
Armas has been awful in his first two starts, allowing 14 runs, 15 hits and seven walks in just 6 2-3 innings. He gave up eight runs and seven hits in only 2 2-3 innings of a 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, his first start since April 7.
The right-hander has never allowed six or more runs in three straight games.
Last season with Washington, Armas went 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in two starts against the Astros, and is 3-2 with a 3.69 ERA in seven career starts against them.
Houston, which has lost five straight games, counters with Wandy Rodriguez (0-2, 4.74), who is looking to bounce back from his worst outing of the season. After allowing four runs in 13 innings over his first two starts, Rodriguez allowed six runs, nine hits—including two home runs—and three walks in six innings of a 6-4 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
The left-hander won his first two career starts against the Pirates, allowing just three earned runs in 12 innings. But he has gone winless in his last two starts, surrendering 10 runs in 11 innings in those contests. Rodriguez is 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA in three career starts at PNC Park.
Pirates right fielder Jason Bay was 0-for-6 on Wednesday, but is 7-for-12 (.583) with two home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs in his career against Rodriguez.
Houston’s Lance Berkman is just 4-for-18 (.222) during the losing skid, but is 6-for-9 with two homers and six RBIs lifetime against Armas.
The Pirates and Astros don’t meet again until a three-game series in Pittsburgh July 20-22.