The Pittsburgh Pirates’ light-hitting lineup started to come around toward the end of another successful road trip, but the club has yet to replicate that offensive success at home.
Runs could be hard to come by against Houston on Friday night, as Rodriguez looks to continue his recent dominance over the Pirates while Paul Maholm(notes) tries to extend his home mastery of the Astros.
Pittsburgh (15-16) has averaged 2.9 runs at home, where it’s hitting a major league-worst .199 and has gone 4-8.
The Pirates haven’t been dominant on the road, but after tying the major league record for fewest road wins with 17 in 2010, it might feel that way. They’re hitting .255 away from home, averaged 6.0 runs over their final four games in Colorado and San Diego this week and improved to 11-8 in opponents’ parks with a 7-4 win over the Padres on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh didn’t win its 11th road game last season until June 30.
“It’s a different year,” catcher Ryan Doumit(notes), who hit a third-inning grand slam, told the Pirates’ official website. “We’re at the point where we expect to win now. We’re preparing. We’re knowing who we’re playing. So far, it’s worked out for us.”
Next up is figuring out a way to translate that road success to PNC Park, and a visit from the Astros (12-19) - who have surrendered a major league-worst 168 runs after a 10-4 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday - would seem to provide a good opportunity.
Facing Rodriguez (1-3, 4.26 ERA), though, has spelled trouble of late for the Pirates. The left-hander has gone 3-0 with a 0.77 ERA in his last three starts versus Pittsburgh - all at home - with 28 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings.
Minute Maid Park was also where Rodriguez turned in his best performance of the season Saturday against Milwaukee. He held the Brewers to seven hits over eight scoreless innings, though he didn’t get the decision in a 2-1 win after Brandon Lyon(notes) blew a save.
Rodriguez had a 5.40 ERA in his first five starts.
Rodriguez could catch a break if Jose Tabata(notes) and Pedro Alvarez(notes) remain out of Pittsburgh’s lineup. Tabata hopes to return after missing four games with tightness in his right hamstring, while Alvarez is day to day with right quad tightness after exiting Tuesday’s game in San Diego.
Even if the Pirates struggle to score, their scheduled starter may be able to match Rodriguez. Maholm (1-4, 4.14) has gone 6-1 with a 1.52 ERA in his last seven home starts against Houston, and he gave up one run in 16 innings to win his two outings at PNC Park versus the Astros in 2010.
Houston outfielder Carlos Lee(notes) may still be a few days away from returning after bruising his rib cage Sunday, but there are a few new faces in the Astros lineup that should concern Maholm. Bill Hall(notes) has batted .581 with three homers against him, while Clint Barmes(notes) isn’t far behind at .571.
Maholm, who gave up four runs over seven innings of a 4-1 loss at Colorado on Saturday, has received one or no runs in four of his last five starts.