The Pittsburgh Pirates have dominated their season series against Houston this year, but even another matchup with the Astros couldn’t help them end their struggles.
The Pirates try again to snap their season-high losing streak when they continue their three-game set against the Astros at PNC Park on Saturday.
Pittsburgh (40-55) won its first six games against Houston (41-55), earning back-to-back sweeps of the Astros for the first time since 1979. The Pirates, though, had that win streak snapped with a 2-1 loss in Friday’s opener, their seventh straight defeat since the All-Star break.
They stranded 11 baserunners - three in the ninth inning - and went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“We pitched great and we made some great defensive plays,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We did everything a major league team can do except not get base hits with runners in scoring position.”
Pittsburgh rolled into the break with nine wins in 13 games.
“We’re going to turn it around and right the ship,” said left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who suffered the loss Friday despite holding the Astros to two runs and six hits in seven innings. “We’re not a team that should be doing this.”
Carlos Lee provided all of the Astros’ offense with a two-run home run in the first inning. Lee is 6-for-15 (.400) with three homers and seven RBIs in his last four games, but he’s batting .172 (5-for-29) against the Pirates this year.
Houston won for just the second time in seven games since the break, but managed to move ahead of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati into fourth place in the NL Central. The Astros are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since a three-game run July 1-3.
They will hand the ball to Wandy Rodriguez (6-8, 4.33 ERA), who will be trying to bounce back from his shortest outing of the year. After winning consecutive starts with 16 straight scoreless innings, the left-hander was pounded for seven runs in 3 1-3 innings and suffered a 7-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
“I tried to throw too hard,” Rodriguez told the Astros’ official Web site.
Rodriguez is 2-2 with a 4.20 ERA in five career starts against the Pirates, who will send Paul Maholm (5-12, 4.68) to the mound Saturday.
Maholm is tied for the major league lead in losses but dominated the Astros in his only start against them this season, pitching a three-hitter for a 3-0 victory April 24. It was his only complete game in 55 career starts.
Maholm is 2-2 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts against Houston.
On Sunday, he held Atlanta to two earned runs in six innings, but received just one run of support in a 5-1 loss. The Pirates have scored one or no runs for Maholm in nine of the left-hander’s 19 starts this season.
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