After a late-inning loss, the Pittsburgh Pirates are well on their way to dropping a seventh consecutive series at Minute Maid Park.
To figure out why, they don’t have to look any further than the player who clubbed the game-winning homer Friday.
At 28-31, the Astros (49-65) are in danger of finishing with their first losing record at Minute Maid Park since their first season there in 2000, but the Pirates (39-76) are one club they’ve easily handled at home.
Houston trailed 1-0 for much of Friday’s series opener before Lee’s three-run, eighth-inning homer lifted the team to a 4-1 win and a 7-0 record when the Pirates have visited in 2010.
“I took advantage of the opportunity,” said Lee, hitting .358 with three homers and 13 RBIs in his last 14 games. “That doesn’t happen very often so you have to take advantage of it when it happens.”
The Astros have won six consecutive series when hosting Pittsburgh, and Lee has been the catalyst. In his last 15 home games versus the Pirates, the three-time All-Star has hit .379 with six homers and 23 RBIs.
One pitcher Lee hasn’t been able to solve is Paul Maholm(notes) (7-10, 4.90 ERA), the only Pirates starter who can say he’s had Houston’s number. Lee is hitting .195 (8 for 41) without a home run against him.
Maholm has been responsible for all three victories during the Pirates’ 3-17 slide in Houston. He’s 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA at Minute Maid Park since 2008.
The left-hander would love a repeat of his performance against the Astros last month at PNC Park. He tossed a three-hitter in a 9-0 win July 18, needing 103 pitches in his fourth career complete game.
He hasn’t been getting many easy outs lately, however. Maholm is 1-2 with an 11.57 ERA in his last three starts after surrendering eight runs and seven hits over 2 2-3 innings in an 8-4 loss to Colorado on Sunday.
It’s the third time in nine starts Maholm has given up at least seven runs while lasting three innings or fewer.
“I’m going to do everything possible to make sure that this is the last one of these like this, and go out there and do it,” Maholm told the Pirates’ official website. “Not talk about it, not try and dwell on it too much. Just go pitch like I normally do.”
Bud Norris(notes) (4-7, 5.63) gets the ball for the Astros, and he’ll want to do anything but relive his July 17 start at Pittsburgh. Norris allowed seven runs - four earned - and nine hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 12-6 loss.
Houston has won the right-hander’s last three starts, however. Norris didn’t earn a decision Monday against Atlanta after surrendering four runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 10-4 victory.