(Sports Network) - The Houston Astros may not have provided Roy Oswalt much run support over the course of this season, but the team has had little trouble generating offense in its battles with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Houston seeks to remain unbeaten against the road-challenged Pirates in 2010 when these two National League Central foes wrap up a three-game series this afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have taken the first two tests of this set and moved to 5-0 versus Pittsburgh this season with last night's 6-3 victory. Houston used a rare power display to prevail on Wednesday, with the club slugging a season-high four home runs for the game.
Carlos Lee had a two-run homer and Jeff Keppinger, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence each delivered solo blasts for Houston, which has amassed a total of 31 runs in its five victories over the Pirates this year.
"It's nice to see our 2-3-4-5 hitters hit those home runs," Astros manager Brad Mills said afterward.
Three of those long balls came off of Pirates starter Daniel McCutchen (1-4), who was reached for four runs in five innings of work.
"He battled but made mistakes that hurt," said Pirates manager John Russell of McCutchen.
Oswalt hopes his teammates can remain swinging hot bats when he takes the ball for today's finale. The Astros have averaged a modest 2.76 runs per game over the ace pitcher's 17 starts, which helps explain the unwanted 5-10 season record Oswalt carries into this matchup. In his last three mound trips, Houston has managed a paltry two runs combined.
The three-time All-Star pitched extremely well this past Friday in San Diego, holding the NL West-leading Padres to three hits and striking out seven over seven shutout innings, but left with the contest still scoreless. Oswalt took a loss in each of his two previous starts and will be searching for his first win since June 16.
The 32-year-old did defeat the Pirates in Pittsburgh back on April 23 by allowing three runs -- two earned -- over seven effective innings and sports a strong 14-7 record with a 2.62 earned run average in 27 career games (26 starts) against the Bucs. Oswalt hasn't fared well at home this season, however, having compiled a poor 1-8 mark with a 3.98 ERA in 10 assignments held at Minute Maid Park.
Houston will be counting on another extended outing from Oswalt, with Brian Moehler forced to leave Wednesday's test after only three shutout innings due to a strained right groin. Casey Daigle (1-1) was credited with the win after recording two scoreless frames in relief.
Wednesday's setback was the 20th in the past 22 road games for Pittsburgh and dropped the team to an awful 11-34 as the visitor this season, the second- worst away mark in the majors. The Pirates have also lost in 13 of their past 16 meetings with the Astros in Houston, as well as eight of the last nine overall encounters between the divisional rivals.
Pittsburgh will turn to Ross Ohlendorf today in an attempt to avoid a sweep, while the big right-hander tries to build off his best effort of the season.
Against Philadelphia this past Friday, Ohlendorf yielded five hits and struck out eight batters over seven shutout innings to notch a long-awaited first win of 2010. The 27-year-old also pitched well in a no-decision five days earlier, limiting Oakland to two unearned runs and just two hits through six frames on June 27.
Prior to those two starts, Ohlendorf had gone 0-6 with a 5.43 over his first 10 appearances of the year.
The Princeton product, an 11-game winner for the Bucs last season, has historically struggled when facing the Astros. Ohlendorf has lost all five of his career starts against Houston and pitched to a lackluster 7.57 ERA in seven lifetime appearances in this series.