The way the Houston Astros are playing, their losing streak to open the season is quickly becoming a distant memory.
The Astros look to complete a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday after securing a third straight series win the night before.
Houston (7-10) began the season 0-8, and while it still is below .500, it climbed out of last place in the NL Central with a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The Astros, who opened the series with a 4-3 victory over the Pirates (7-10) on Friday, have scored 29 runs over the last seven games while hitting .267. They began the season batting .214 in their first eight games while scoring 14 runs.
Hunter Pence(notes) has certainly factored in turning things around. He had two hits Saturday, driving in two with a double in the first to raise his average to .308 in the last seven games. In the first nine games, the right fielder hit .108 with eight strikeouts.
Pence and the Astros will try for their seventh win in eight games against the slumping Pirates, who have dropped five straight while being held to six total runs. Pittsburgh scored 53 runs in its first 12 games during a 7-5 start.
The Pirates also had to exhaust their bullpen Saturday after starter Chris Jakubauskas(notes) was hit by a line drive off Lance Berkman’s(notes) bat in the first inning. He was hit behind the right ear and taken off the field on a medical cart.
Jakubauskas was taken to a Houston hospital and was kept overnight for observation. Manager John Russell, though, said the report was encouraging.
“He doesn’t seem to have a concussion, but we’ll see how he does overnight,” Russell said. “So far, so good.”
Morton is coming off the worst of three terrible starts this season after he allowed six runs and walked three in one inning against the Brewers on Tuesday.
Morton has given up 20 runs in 10 1-3 innings and had his ERA jump more than three runs following his poor outing.
“He needs to get back to being aggressive, letting his stuff play,” Russell said. “I still think Charlie is going to be just fine. He’s got to find that glitch that works for him. He was nibbling a bit tonight, and that’s what got him into trouble.”
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three starts against the Astros. Berkman is 4 for 5 with three doubles and a home run against Morton.
The right-hander is 3-4 with a 2.64 ERA against the Pirates. He did not faced them last season while with the Phillies.