Pirates Sweep Astros, Send Them To 20 Games Under .500

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Astros-Pirates series from June 14th-16th, 2011

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Lyles Gets Some Bullpen 'Help', Astros Swept By Pirates

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Garrett Jones belted a three-run homer as the Pittsburgh downed the Houston Astros, 5-4, to earn their first three-game sweep of the season.

Jones added a sinking line drive in the sixth, which Michael Bourn misplayed, allowing Andrew McCutchen to cross the plate, breaking a 3-3 tie.

Trailing 5-3 with one down in the ninth, Houston drew within a run on a Jeff Keppinger RBI single. After a Hunter Pence groundout, Brandon Wood bobbled a Carlos Lee grounder before recovering to nail him by a hair, giving Jose Veras his first save of the season.

James McDonald (5-4) allowed three runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out four over 5 2/3 innings to earn the win.

Jordan Lyles (0-2), making his fourth career start, allowed five runs — three earned — on four hits and one walk while striking out eight for the Astros, who have dropped 11 of 13.

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Astros Look To Avoid Being Swept By Pirates At Home In Matinee

(Sports Network) – The Pittsburgh Pirates can complete a road sweep and tighten an already jumbled division today when they visit Minute Maid Park for the finale of a three-game series with the Houston Astros.

Pittsburgh made it two straight over Houston and three in a row overall on Wednesday, when Xavier Paul belted a two-run homer and Neil Walker added three RBI in a 7-3 win.

Paul, who entered the game in the sixth inning, added a double and a single and scored a pair of runs, while Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen each had an RBI.

Charlie Morton (7-3) lasted five innings to improve to 5-0 against the National League’s Central Division this season. He allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out three.

The Pirates won their third straight and moved above .500 for the first time since May 9.

For Houston, J.A. Happ allowed two runs over five innings before being spelled by Enerio Del Rosario (0-1), who surrendered three runs in the sixth to suffer the loss.

Michael Bourn went 3-for-4 and Brett Wallace went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Astros, who have dropped 10 of their last 12.

The Pirates sit fourth in the six-team Central, but only four games behind first-place Milwaukee.

St. Louis has lost five straight and is a game behind the Brewers, while the defending division champion Cincinnati Reds are third, but just 2 1/2 behind.

Right-hander James McDonald takes the mound for the Pirates for his fourth career appearance against Houston.

The 26-year-old has logged 10 innings against the Astros in three previous appearances while allowing 10 hits and five runs with 12 strikeouts.

He got a no-decision in the most recent matchup on May 8, allowing three hits in six scoreless innings of a 5-4 Pirates win.

McDonald evened his 2011 record at 4-4 in his last start, scattering eight hits and allowing two runs in six innings of a 3-2 defeat of the New York Mets.

Houston replies with 20-year-old righty Jordan Lyles, who’ll make his fourth big-league start.

Lyles debuted on May 31 at Wrigley Field and allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings of Houston’s 7-3 defeat of the Chicago Cubs.

He’s 0-1 in two starts since, giving up a combined 13 hits and six runs in 10 1/3 innings against San Diego and Atlanta.

Lyles, then 17, was a supplemental draft pick of the Astros in 2008.

Pittsburgh took two of three from Houston earlier in the year.

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Astros Loss Sends Pirates One Game Over .500

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Xavier Paul belted a two-run homer and Neil Walker added three RBI to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Houston Astros, 7-3, in second of a three-game set.

Paul, who entered the game in the sixth inning, added a double and a single and scored a pair of runs, while Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen each had an RBI.

Charlie Morton (7-3) lasted five innings to improve to 5-0 against the NL Central this season. He allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out three. The Pirates won their third straight and moved above .500 for the first time since May 9.

J.A. Happ allowed two runs over five innings before being spelled by Enerio Del Rosario (0-1), who surrendered three runs in the sixth to suffer the loss.

Michael Bourn went 3-for-4 and Brett Wallace went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Astros, who have dropped 10 of their last 12.

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Brandon Lyon Back On The DL, Fernando Abad Recalled

Finally realizing the error of their ways with regards to bringing Brandon Lyon off the disabled list so soon, the Astros placed the scuffling right-hander right back on the DL and recalled Fernando Abad from Oklahoma City, giving the Astros a second left-handed option in the bullpen.

Lyon’s official diagnosis is that of biceps tendinitis, but don’t look for that to stick long as (per Brian McTaggart) he will get a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum. Yocum isn’t the angel of death like Dr. James Andrews is, but he’s pretty close. Given Lyon’s awfulness and the earlier diagnosis of a partially torn rotator cuff, I’d speculate that it’s likely that this visit will reveal some significant damage.

Abad, 25, was 1-4 with a 7.43 earlier this season as one of the key firestarters for the Astros bullpen. Since his demotion, he’s sported a 3.55 ERA for the RedHawks, with 18 strikeouts and just one walk in 12.1 innings. Whether he’ll be able to help the Astros again is an open question, but he likely could not be worse than Lyon was since coming off the DL.

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Happ Squares Off With Morton As Astros Try To Even Series Against Pittsburgh

(Sports Network) – Right-hander Charlie Morton can follow up on a teammate’s mound gem tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates return to Minute Maid Park for the second of three games with the host Houston Astros.

The Pirates broke out on top of the series in Tuesday’s opener when Jeff Karstens combined with five others in a four-hit shutout en route to a 1-0 win.

Karstens (4-4) gave up three hits with three strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings for the Pirates, who have won three of their last four. Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 13 games while Garret Jones had two hits and drove in the lone run of the game.

Bud Norris (4-5) was the tough-luck loser as he was charged with one run on six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts over seven innings for the Astros, who have dropped five of their last six games.

Hunter Pence went 0-for-4 and had a career-high 23-game hitting streak snapped.

Morton, a third-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2002, won three straight starts between May 1 and 18 — including a 6-1 defeat of the Astros in Pittsburgh — to improve to 5-1 on the season.

He’s won just once in four subsequent starts, however, and took an 8-1 loss against the New York Mets in his most recent outing on June 10.

The lone win in the recent stretch was six days earlier against Philadelphia, when the 27-year-old allowed six hits and two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory.

He is 1-3 lifetime against Houston with a 6.75 earned run average in 26 2/3 innings.

The Astros go with struggling southpaw J.A. Happ, who’s not won since beating the Mets on May 14.

The Northwestern University product is 0-4 in five starts since that win, though he’s allowed three runs or less in three of the outings and pitched at least six innings three times as well.

Happ last met the Pirates on May 8 in Pittsburgh, where he got a no-decision in the Astros’ 5-4 loss after allowing six hits and two runs in six innings.

He’s 2-2 in five career starts against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh took two of three from the Astros earlier in the year.

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Pirates Pitchers Silence Astros

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Jeff Karstens combined with five other pitchers in a four-hit shutout to help the Pittsburgh Pirates take a 1-0 win over the Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game set.

Karstens (4-4) gave up three hits with three strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings for the Pirates, who have won three of their last four. Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to 13 games while Garret Jones had two hits and drove in the lone run of the game.

Bud Norris (4-5) was the tough-luck loser as he gave charged with one run on six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts over seven innings for the Astros, who have dropped five of their last six games. Hunter Pence went 0-for-4 and had a career-high 23-game hitting streak snapped.

The only run of the game came in the second inning as Neil Walker led off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and crossed the plate when Jones singled to right.

Houston got a runner to second in the fifth on a two-out single from Brett Wallace followed by a balk from Karstens, but Chris Johnson struck out to end the frame.

Pittsburgh got its first two men on base in the sixth, but the next two struck out and Michael McKenry grounded out to kill the inning.

After Carlos Lee singled with two outs in the seventh, Chris Resop took the mound and got Jeff Keppinger to strike out.

Three pitchers combined to pitch the eighth inning for the Pirates while Joel Hanrahan worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 18th save of the season.

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Hunter Pence Looks To Keep Hitting Streak Alive, Oh, And I Think Other Players Will Play Too

(Sports Network) - Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Karstens can get his team to .500 and end a personal drought tonight when the Pirates visit Minute Maid Park to begin a three-game series with the Houston Astros.

The Pirates climbed within a game of the break even mark on Monday, when Neil Walker had two runs batted in to help back seven shutout innings from Paul Maholm in a 3-1 defeat of the New York Mets at PNC Park.

Brandon Wood added a solo homer for Pittsburgh, which earned a split of the four-game series.

Maholm (3-7) was sensational, scattering three hits and a pair of walks while striking out four. Joel Hanrahan worked a perfect ninth inning to record his 17th save of the season.

The Pirates have stayed in contention in a jumbled National League Central Division and sit just five games behind co-leaders Milwaukee and St. Louis through 65 games.

They are 1 1/2 games behind the third-place Cincinnati Reds.

Karstens, a 28-year-old from San Diego, was 3-2 on the season after a 10-1 interleague defeat of Detroit on May 20, but is 0-2 with two no-decisions in four subsequent starts.

He's allowed no more than three runs in any of the four outings and has been stellar in the last two, combining to allow just eight hits and one run in 14 innings while Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia, 2-1, and lost, 2-0, to Arizona.

The Pirates are 7-7 in his 14 appearances.

Karstens is 1-2 lifetime against Houston.

The Astros go with 26-year-old righty Bud Norris, who's won his last two starts after a three-decision losing skid.

Another California native, Norris was 2-4 on the year after dropping an 11-3 verdict to Arizona on May 28.

He's leveled the mark at 4-4 with subsequent defeats of San Diego and St. Louis, combining to give up seven hits and five runs in 14 innings with eight strikeouts.

He lost a 6-1 decision at Pittsburgh after going seven innings on May 7 and is 2-3 lifetime against the Pirates in five starts.

On Monday in Houston, Hunter Pence brought life to a listless Astros lineup, going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI as Houston avoided a sweep by the Braves behind an 8-3 victory in the finale of a four-game series.

Pence, fresh from sitting out on Sunday due to tightness in his back, extended his career-best hitting streak to 23 games while contributing to the Astros' 14-hit attack.

Brett Wallace reached base four times on two doubles and two walks while scoring twice and knocking in a run for Houston, which won for just the second time in 10 games.

Wandy Rodriguez (4-3) halted Atlanta's winning streak at six with six shutout innings in his return from the disabled list.

Pittsburgh took two of three from the Astros earlier in the year.

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