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Roles Reversed: Last Place Astros Square Off Against Pirates

(Sports Network) - Back in the Steel City after a trip out west, the Pittsburgh Pirates kick off a seven-game stay at PNC Park, starting with Friday's opener of a three-game series versus the Houston Astros.

Pittsburgh won four of six meetings with Colorado and San Diego, and has won seven of 12 games overall. In Wednesday's 7-4 victory over the Padres at Petco Park, Ryan Doumit cracked a grand slam during a six-run third inning and Neil Walker finished with two RBI and a pair of runs scored for the Pirates.

"It was a fastball down, 3-2 pitch, you know. I was just looking for something to get elevated and get a run in. The last thing I want to do right there was ground into a double play, so I was looking a pitch up that I could hit a fly ball," Doumit said of his blast off of Padres starter Clayton Richard.

Kevin Correia stymied his former Padres teammates by allowing two runs and five hits in six innings for his fifth win of the season (5-2).

The Pirates sit 2 1/2 games off the NL Central lead and will also welcome Los Angeles to western Pennsylvania for a four-game series. Paul Maholm gets the nod for the Buccos tonight and he's just 1-4 with a 4.14 earned run average in six starts this season. After gathering his first win of 2011 on April 25 versus Washington with seven innings of two-run ball, Maholm suffered the loss in last Saturday's 4-1 decision at Colorado.

Maholm allowed all four runs and seven hits in seven innings and matched a season high with three walks. The lefty will make his 18th career start against Houston and owns a 10-6 mark with a 3.43 ERA through the first 17.

Meanwhile, the Astros lost the final two portions of a three-game series at Cincinnati following a three-game winning streak.

Houston was pounded by a 10-4 score in Thursday's series finale with Cincinnati and lost for the fifth time in eight tries. Brett Myers was saddled with the loss for giving up six runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings and Nelson Figueroa did no better in relief, allowing four runs in an inning of work.

"It didn't appear that he had his best stuff, but it was sure nice to see him battle all the way through it," Astros manager Brad Mills said about Myers.

Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 with three RBI, while Jason Bourgeois drove in the other run for Houston, which is in the midst of 18 consecutive games against teams from the NL Central Division (5-7). It will also host Cincinnati for three games at Minute Maid Park.

Like Maholm, Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez is searching for just his second win of the 2011 campaign and is 1-3 with a 4.26 earned run average through the first six starts to the season.

He arguably had the best outing of the season in Saturday's 2-1 triumph versus Milwaukee, but did not record a decision for throwing eight scoreless innings and striking out six. Rodriguez, just 1-2 in three road starts this season, hasn't faced the rival Pirates in 2011 and is 6-4 with a 3.97 ERA over the first 13 starts in this series.

Houston won 11 of 15 matchups with Pittsburgh last season, going a perfect 9-0 in the Lone Star State. The Pirates were 4-2 as the host in 2010.

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