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'Stros Seek To Break Out The Brooms Against Pirates

(Sports Network) - Lefty J.A. Happ meets the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time in a Houston uniform today, when the Astros aim for a three-game sweep against the visiting Bucs in the finale of a weekend set at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros made it two in a row over the Pirates on Saturday, when Hunter Pence went 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and two RBI in a 3-2 win. The victory was also Houston's eighth without a loss over the Pirates at Minute Maid Park this season.

Pence's hit in the seventh put Bud Norris (5-7) in the win column after the right-hander finished with a Minute Maid Park-record 14 strikeouts and allowed two runs on five hits in his seven-inning start.

Paul Maholm (7-11) was on the opposite end of the decision, yielding three runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 frames for Pittsburgh, which has lost six straight overall and nine in a row on the road. The Pirates are now 2-13 in their last 15 visits to Houston.

Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen tripled to the right-field gap leading off the game and trotted home when Garrett Jones took Norris deep over the wall in right for his 17th home run of the season. The Pirates would fail to score the rest of the way, however.

Happ, who appeared in 35 games for Philadelphia last season, began 2010 with the Phillies before heading to Texas as part of the late-July trade that sent veteran Houston ace Roy Oswalt to the Phils.

He was 1-0 with Philadelphia and has split a pair of decisions in three starts with his new team, beating Milwaukee and losing at St. Louis before getting a no-decision against Atlanta on Tuesday. In 13 1/3 innings as an Astro, Happ has been touched for 10 hits and eight runs.

Happ is 1-1 in two starts against Pittsburgh with a 2.40 earned run average in 15 innings.

For the Pirates, righty Jeff Karstens seeks his first win since June 19 and just his third of the season. The San Diego native and product of Texas Tech University was 2-2 on the year after a 6-4 win over Cleveland on June 19 in Pittsburgh.

He winless in nine subsequent starts, however, and has picked up six losses in that span, including a 4-1 setback at San Diego on Tuesday in which he gave up three hits and two runs in six strong innings.

Karstens has allowed three runs or less in six of his outings during the streak. He is 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA in four lifetime appearances against Houston.

The Astros have now taken nine of the 11 overall meetings between these NL Central foes thus far in 2010.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.