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Pirates-Astros Preview

AP - Sports

After spending the first seven-plus years of his career with the Houston Astros, Wandy Rodriguez isn't sure what to expect when he takes the mound against his former team.

Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this week, Rodriguez squares off against an Astros club hoping to avoid a franchise-worst 12th consecutive defeat Saturday night.

Sitting two games behind NL Central-leading Cincinnati and atop the wild card standings, Pittsburgh (57-42) sent minor leaguers Rudy Owen, Colton Cain, and Robbie Grossman to Houston in exchange for Rodriguez (7-9, 3.79 ERA) on Tuesday. The 33-year-old left-hander posted an 80-84 record and a 4.04 ERA since debuting with the Astros in May 2005.

"They kept trying to trade me, but I didn't know where I was going. Then they told me Pittsburgh, and I felt good," he told MLB's official website. "I'll try to help these guys. ... They're playing very good now. We need to make the playoffs. That's why they picked me up. They want to play in the playoffs, so I'll do the best I can."

While Rodriguez is excited about joining a contender, the move wasn't an easy one to make.

"It's a hard situation for me," Rodriguez added. "I played for a long time for the Astros organization and now I'm with the Pirates. I understand the situation the for the Astros. They traded me and now I'm here. ... I need to wait until (Saturday) because I don't know how I'll feel."

Rodriguez enters the weekend having compiled a 6.75 ERA over a career worst-tying three-start losing streak. A matchup against the major league-worst Astros, though, could coincidentally be just what he needs to regroup.

Houston (34-67) has dropped 24 of 26 - including 11 straight to match the longest skid in team history.

"We have to (be level-headed)," said Chris Johnson, who finished a single short of the cycle during Friday's 6-5 defeat. "If you get down, it's just going to get worse."

The Astros have been outscored 78-35 during their slide and have had an especially hard time closing out games since trading Brett Myers last Saturday. Houston has taken leads into the ninth inning in three of its last four games before blowing a save each time - including two Friday.

"Having the lead in three of the last four games is tough, there's no doubt," manager Brad Mills said. "And it beats up on everybody, but these guys have been battling so well all the way through, and I'm sure they're going to come out (Saturday) and do the same thing."

Recently acquired Francisco Cordero, who blew a pair of save chances in back-to-back appearances Tuesday and Wednesday, has been dealing with a sprained toe and hasn't pitched since. His status for this game is unknown.

Filling Rodriguez's spot in Houston's rotation will be Armando Galarraga, who's expected to be called up to make his season debut Saturday. The veteran right-hander posted a 4.12 ERA over nine starts with Triple-A Oklahoma City after signing a minor league deal May 21.

Galarraga hasn't appeared in the majors since going 3-4 with a 5.91 in eight starts with Arizona last season. He is 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates.

Winner of eight of 10 overall, Pittsburgh has posted eight straight victories over Houston by a 46-25 margin. The Pirates have only defeated the Astros nine consecutive times in a single season once before July 2-Aug. 23, 1962.

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