The Pittsburgh Pirates have made themselves right at home in Houston this season.
They’ll be looking to build on their impressive record at Minute Maid Park as they continue their three-game series with the Astros on Saturday.
The Pirates (66-81) beat the Astros 4-3 in Friday’s series opener, improving to 6-1 at Minute Maid. Pittsburgh, which has outscored Houston 32-20 in those seven games, is 10-3 overall against the Astros this season.
That’s quite a turnaround from last season, when the Pirates were 0-6 at Minute Maid and 3-13 overall against Houston (63-84). This year, Pittsburgh has pulled off a pair of three-game sweeps against Houston - one on the road April 2-4 and one at home April 24-26.
“It’s means a lot to me and it means a lot to the team to go out strong,” said starter Ian Snell, who earned the win.
Lance Berkman hit his 30th homer for the Astros, who have lost eight of nine and 11 of 16 since Cecil Cooper replaced Phil Garner as manager on Aug. 27.
Houston has scored three runs or fewer in each of its last eight defeats and has been outscored 54-22 over its last nine games.
The Pirates could get a boost on Saturday, as outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady are expected to return to the lineup. Bay, who was diagnosed with right knee tendinitis and hasn’t played since Sept. 8, and Nady, who has not played since suffering a mild concussion on Sept. 3, were both cleared to return prior to Friday’s game but didn’t play.
Bay is 10-for-19 (.526) with four doubles and two homers all-time against Wandy Rodriguez (8-13, 4.65 ERA), who starts Saturday for Houston.
“We have to be careful with him not to pound this thing until the point where it could get really sore, and he would walk in and not be able to go. … With the history he has with Wandy Rodriguez, I definitely want him ready,” manager Jim Tracy told the Pirates’ official team Web site of his decision not to play Bay on Friday.
Rodriguez was pounded for five runs in 4 1-3 innings of an 11-3 loss to the New York Mets in his last start on Sept. 7. Rodriguez, who was battling a sore thumb on his pitching hand, walked four of the first 11 batters he faced and fell to 2-10 with a 7.31 ERA in his 14th road start.
However, in 14 starts at home, he is 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA.
Rodriguez is 2-3 with a 4.95 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates, including 0-2 with a 5.82 ERA in three starts this season.
Pittsburgh counters with Matt Morris (9-9, 4.59), who is coming off just his second win in 16 starts since June 17. He allowed four runs in six innings but received seven runs of support in Sunday’s 10-5 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Morris improved to 2-2 with a 5.29 ERA in eight starts since joining the Pirates in a trade with San Francisco on July 31.
He is 12-10 with a 3.40 ERA in 33 career appearances - 30 starts - against the Astros, including 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts this season.
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