Houston (18-28) at Pittsburgh (21-26)

Fair Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Fri May 29, 2009
  • TV: FSSW, FSPI
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Poor starting pitching and a scuffling offense have been the common components in the Houston Astros’ seven consecutive losses, a skid they’d love to snap after a much-needed day off.

To do so, they’ll likely need a sudden improvement from their worst starter.

The shaky Brian Moehler(notes) will try to lift the Astros out of their funk when they begin a three-game series Friday night at PNC Park, but he’ll have to find a way to solve a Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup that’s hit him hard recently.

Houston (18-27) had won seven of 10 heading into the finale of a three-game set with Milwaukee on May 21, but dropped that game 4-3 after blowing a late two-run lead.

From there, the losses haven’t stopped. Houston has averaged 3.0 runs in dropping seven straight, and aside from a lack of run production it’s gotten little help from its starters. The Astros’ rotation has a 6.21 ERA during the slump and those pitchers have allowed opponents to hit .356.

Felipe Paulino(notes) gave up three homers Wednesday in Cincinnati as the Reds completed a three-game sweep of Houston with a 6-1 win. The Astros haven’t lost eight straight since June 11-19.

“We’ve had a rough stretch here the last eight to 10 days,” manager Cecil Cooper said. “So yeah, we probably do need a break to get away from it and kind of refresh ourselves a little bit. And hopefully we come with some energy and a little bit better focus come Friday, with a sense of urgency.”

The Astros had Thursday to regroup before heading to Pittsburgh for their second series of the season against the Pirates (21-26), who are two games ahead of Houston for fifth in the six-team NL Central.

Pittsburgh lost two of three to the Astros from April 13-16 in its first home series. The game the Pirates won came when Moehler (1-3, 8.31 ERA) was on the hill.

The veteran right-hander was chased after allowing seven hits and five runs in 2 1-3 innings April 13.

After missing three starts with a right knee sprain, Moehler pitched well in his first three outings after coming off the disabled list. On Saturday against Texas, though, he gave up nine hits—three homers—and six runs in a 6-3 loss.

“In the last couple innings, I just simply didn’t locate,” Moehler told the team’s official Web site. “I made some good pitches at times, but the home runs were just poorly located.”

Moehler is 0-2 with a 27.00 ERA in his last two starts at PNC Park. First baseman Adam LaRoche(notes) is hitting .391 (9 for 32) with two homers and eight RBIs against Moehler.

The Pirates come home after splitting their 10-game trip following a 3-0 start. Pittsburgh lost four of six in Chicago - two to the White Sox and a pair against the Cubs - including a 5-2 defeat Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

Ross Ohlendorf(notes) (5-4, 4.20) will get the ball for the Pirates hoping for more offensive support than he got Saturday against the White Sox. Ohlendorf allowed four runs - three earned - in a career-high 7 2-3 innings of a 4-0 loss.

“I’m really glad I got to go so deep in the game,” Ohlendorf told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I felt like I pitched pretty well.”

The right-hander is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts against Houston.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Moehler Hou vs. R. Ohlendorf Tex
8-12 Record 11-10
5.47 ERA 3.92
91 K 109
51 BB 53
1.54 WHIP 1.23

Scoreboard

Friday, May 29