(Sports Network) – The Pittsburgh Pirates can complete a road sweep and tighten an already jumbled division today when they visit Minute Maid Park for the finale of a three-game series with the Houston Astros.
Pittsburgh made it two straight over Houston and three in a row overall on Wednesday, when Xavier Paul belted a two-run homer and Neil Walker added three RBI in a 7-3 win.
Paul, who entered the game in the sixth inning, added a double and a single and scored a pair of runs, while Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen each had an RBI.
Charlie Morton (7-3) lasted five innings to improve to 5-0 against the National League’s Central Division this season. He allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out three.
The Pirates won their third straight and moved above .500 for the first time since May 9.
For Houston, J.A. Happ allowed two runs over five innings before being spelled by Enerio Del Rosario (0-1), who surrendered three runs in the sixth to suffer the loss.
Michael Bourn went 3-for-4 and Brett Wallace went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Astros, who have dropped 10 of their last 12.
The Pirates sit fourth in the six-team Central, but only four games behind first-place Milwaukee.
Right-hander James McDonald takes the mound for the Pirates for his fourth career appearance against Houston.
The 26-year-old has logged 10 innings against the Astros in three previous appearances while allowing 10 hits and five runs with 12 strikeouts.
He got a no-decision in the most recent matchup on May 8, allowing three hits in six scoreless innings of a 5-4 Pirates win.
McDonald evened his 2011 record at 4-4 in his last start, scattering eight hits and allowing two runs in six innings of a 3-2 defeat of the New York Mets.
Houston replies with 20-year-old righty Jordan Lyles, who’ll make his fourth big-league start.
Lyles debuted on May 31 at Wrigley Field and allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings of Houston’s 7-3 defeat of the Chicago Cubs.
He’s 0-1 in two starts since, giving up a combined 13 hits and six runs in 10 1/3 innings against San Diego and Atlanta.
Lyles, then 17, was a supplemental draft pick of the Astros in 2008.
Pittsburgh took two of three from Houston earlier in the year.