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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