(Sports Network) - Right-hander Charlie Morton continues a bounce-back season for the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight when they host the Houston Astros in game two of a three-game weekend series at PNC Park.
A third-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2002, Morton reached the majors in 2008 before coming to the Pirates in June 2009 in a four-player trade that sent Nate McLouth to Atlanta.
He was just 11-29 in his initial 51 appearances and was briefly sent to the minors in 2010 amid a slump that saw him end with a 2-12 mark and an ugly 7.57 earned run average in 79 2/3 innings.
This season has marked a turnaround for the Flemington, N.J. product, who equaled his 2010 win total with a complete-game defeat of Cincinnati on April 15, then exceeded it after winning, 8-4, at Colorado on May 1.
In 38 1/3 innings though six starts, he's allowed 34 hits and 15 earned runs while holding opposing batters to a .245 average. Last season, opponents hit .332 off him.
Morton is 0-3 in four career starts against the Astros.
Houston opened the series with a 3-2 win Friday night when Carlos Lee drove home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
Hunter Pence knocked in the other two runs for Houston, which had lost two games in a row. Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez (2-3) gave up two runs on five hits over seven innings.
Paul Maholm limited Houston to one run on five hits and walked three in seven full frames, but did not factor in the decision after the Pittsburgh bullpen faltered.
The Pirates had seized the lead when Neil Walker belted a tie-breaking home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh.
Chris Resop (1-1) replaced Maholm in the eighth and failed to retire both batters he faced. Michael Bourn led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a double by Pence.
Lee, who missed the previous three games with a contusion of his left rib cage sustained in a collision with shortstop Angel Sanchez on Sunday, then greeted Jose Veras with a single to left field.
The Pirates put a runner on third in the bottom of the frame, but Fernando Abad struck out pinch-hitter Garrett Jones to preserve the one-run lead. Mark Melancon tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to notch his first career save.
The Astros start 26-year-old righty Bud Norris, who'll try to extend a five- start unbeaten streak.
The native Californian was beaten at Philadelphia to begin his season on April 3, but has since gone 2-0 with three no-decisions and has lasted at least six innings in all five starts.
He worked 7 2/3 innings of scoreless three-hit ball with a season-high 11 strikeouts his last time out, when he recorded a 5-0 defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers.
In his last four starts, in fact, he's pitched 25 2/3 innings while allowing just three earned runs. The Astros won all four of those games.
Norris is 2-2 in four career meetings with the Pirates.
Houston won 11 of 15 matchups with Pittsburgh last season, going a perfect 9-0 in Texas. The Pirates were 4-2 as the host in 2010.