Pittsburgh (45-54) at Houston (46-53)

  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Tue Jul 22, 2008
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ hitting woes lasted for four games in one of the major leagues’ highest-scoring ballparks, and they continued for eight more innings at Minute Maid Park, another run-scoring haven.

It took one inning to end the slump.

One day after a seven-run ninth-inning rally, the Pirates will look to keep their offense rolling on Tuesday when they continue their three-game series with the Houston Astros.

Pittsburgh (45-54) scored nine runs as it was swept in four games by Colorado at Coors Field to start the second half, extending its losing streak to five games as it fell into the NL Central cellar, two games behind the fifth-place Astros (46-53).

The Pirates went to another notorious hitters’ paradise on Monday to continue their seven-game road trip, and for eight innings they could only muster two runs, trailing by one with Houston closer Jose Valverde coming into the game.

They scored seven in the ninth, beginning with a Jason Bay homer to tie the score, and ending with a Freddy Sanchez three-run, inside-the-park home run to lift them to a 9-3 win.

“It was looking at one point like the same old story from the last four days,” said Bay, who went 4-for-5. “Hopefully, we’re over that and can get back on the right side of the ship.”

Pittsburgh has won five of its last six against the Astros this season and seven of its last 10 in Houston.

The Pirates will try to get their offense rolling a bit earlier on Tuesday when they face Jack Cassel (1-0, 6.28 ERA). With Houston ace Roy Oswalt on the disabled list, Cassel will be making his first start since April 29.

Facing Cassel may not be much of a break for Pittsburgh. The right-hander made his major league debut last season with San Diego versus the Pirates, and pitched six innings of a 3-0 win.

Pittsburgh will counter with Paul Maholm (6-6, 4.10), who has been the best pitcher on a staff with the worst ERA (5.29) in baseball.

Maholm, though, is coming off his worst outing since early May, and his first loss since May 20. He pitched six innings and struck out seven on Thursday at Colorado, but allowed five runs in the Pirates’ 5-3 defeat.

“I felt great, I felt like I still had everything,” Maholm told the Pirates’ official Web site. “(But) I missed some pitches and made some bad pitches, and you can’t do that in this ballpark.”

Maholm has had far worse luck, however, at Minute Maid. In three starts at Houston, he’s 0-3 with a 13.89 ERA, including a 2 2-3 inning, 10-run effort in a 15-3 loss last Sept. 16.

The Astros offense he’ll see Tuesday, though, hasn’t been doing much damage of late. Houston has scored 20 runs in its last seven games.

The team’s two biggest run producers, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, have nearly identical numbers this season, but have been going in different directions over the last few games. Berkman (22 homers, 73 RBIs) is just 2-for-14 (.143) with no RBIs in his last four games, while Lee (22 homers, 80 RBIs) is batting .464 with a homer and eight RBIs in his last seven.

Neither has had success against Maholm. Both are hitting .143 against the left-hander in their careers, Berkman going 2-for-14 and Lee 3-for-21.

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Starting Pitchers

P. Maholm CIN vs. J. Cassel CLE
9-9 Record 1-1
3.71 ERA 5.64
139 K 14
63 BB 8
1.28 WHIP 1.52


Tuesday, Jul 22