With an 18th straight losing season about to end, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a chance to finish their home schedule on a positive note. They’ll likely need to get the best of Houston’s J.A. Happ(notes) to make that happen.
The Pirates look to conclude their already successful final homestand with a second straight win over the Astros on Sunday.
Pittsburgh (54-100) won 6-4 on Saturday to improve to 6-2 on its nine-game homestand. All but 15 of the Pirates’ wins this season have come at PNC Park, including all three of their victories in 14 total games against the Astros.
Pedro Alvarez(notes) went 2 for 4 with a three-run homer for the Pirates, who have averaged 6.0 runs per game on the homestand. Though the rookie third baseman is batting .237, he is 7 for 19 with two homers and 11 RBIs in his last five games.
“Pedro has been working really hard all year and now he is starting to see results,” Pirates manager John Russell said.
Alvarez is batting .381 with six RBIs in five home games versus Houston (74-81), which hopes to bounce back behind Happ (6-2, 2.99 ERA).
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA in his last six starts, but has not factored in the decision of his last three - all Houston losses. After giving up five runs in 4 1-3 innings against Milwaukee on Sept. 15, Happ allowed three hits in six scoreless innings of an 8-4 loss at Washington on Tuesday.
Happ improved to 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA against Pittsburgh after he gave up two runs and three hits in six innings of an 8-2 win Aug. 15.
Despite going 1 for 4 on Saturday, Hunter Pence(notes) is batting .460 against the Pirates this season. He is lifetime .314 hitter with four doubles and two home runs against scheduled starter Paul Maholm(notes) (8-15, 5.25), who looks to avoid setting a career high for losses while trying to build on his first win since Aug. 3.
The left-hander was 0-6 with a 7.88 ERA in eight starts before he allowed two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 win over St. Louis on Tuesday.
“I’m a much better pitcher than I’ve showed and that’s the frustrating part,” Maholm said. “A lot of people expect me to go deep into games, and obviously I haven’t been. (On Tuesday, I) felt normal and hopefully I can finish my last two (starts) like that.”
Maholm is 1-2 against the Astros this season, but has a 1.99 ERA in those games. He recorded his fourth career complete game after tossing a three-hitter in a 9-0 home win over Houston on July 18.