(Sports Network) – The Pittsburgh Pirates can mark their first day in second place with a series sweep when they close out a three-game set with the Houston Astros tonight at PNC Park.
The Pirates won their second straight in this matchup on Tuesday, when Jeff Karstens was excellent over seven-plus innings and Brandon Wood provided ample offense in a 5-1 triumph.
The win moved Pittsburgh from third to second in the National League’s Central Division, leapfrogging Milwaukee to trail St. Louis by 1 1/2 games.
The Brewers have lost three straight and are two games back, while defending division champion Cincinnati is a game under .500 and four games behind.
Karstens (7-4) allowed just one run on seven hits while fanning three and adding an RBI on a well-executed suicide squeeze.
The Pirates saw Wood go 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three RBI.
Wandy Rodriguez (6-5) surrendered five runs on eight hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings for Houston.
Clint Barmes belted a solo home run for the Astros, losers of five in a row and 13 of their last 15.
Right-hander Charlie Morton gets the call for the hosts in the finale and will try to repeat the success of a June 15 start in Houston, where he allowed three runs on nine hits in five innings of a 7-3 victory.
That win lifted him to 2-3 in six career starts against the Astros.
In two starts since, he’s 0-1, including an interleague debacle against Baltimore in which he was roughed up for seven runs on eight hits in just two innings.
The Pirates are 7-8 in the 15 games he’s pitched.
Houston starts righty Bud Norris, who’ll try to snap a four-start drought.
The 26-year-old was 4-4 on the season after a 4-1 defeat of St. Louis on June 8, but is 0-2 with a pair of no-decisions since, including a 1-0 loss to the Pirates in which he allowed just six hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts.
That defeat dropped him to 2-4 lifetime against Pittsburgh.
He got a no-decision in his most recent outing on July 1 against Boston after giving up four runs in six innings.
Pittsburgh is 7-1 against the Astros this season.