PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 10: Jeff Locke #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in his first Major League game against the Florida Marlins during the game on September 10, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The league's worst team visits Pittsburgh, exactly what the struggling Pirates need as they try and get back in contention for a playoff spot after losing nine of 12 games.
The Houston Astros are a sight for the Pirates' sore eyes: with every game carrying playoff implications for a Pittsburgh team that finds itself 1.5 games back of a wild card playoff spot after losing nine of 12, there's nobody they'd rather play than the worst team in the league.
Pittsburgh is coming off a sweep at the hands of Milwaukee, while Houston was swept in four of the eight series they played in August and have lost well over twice as many games than they have won. That makes them an ideal candidate for Pittsburgh to face as they look to turn around a season that has begun to fade away.
On the mound, each team will be giving a pitcher their first start of the season: Jeff Locke replaces Erik Bedard in the rotation, having pitched only 4.1 innings (albeit scoreless) on the big league level this year. Locke had a 2.48 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis, but was 0-3 in four starts for Pittsburgh last year. Facing him will be Edgar Gonzalez, who has only pitched once in the majors since 2009. The 29-year-old Mexican pitcher spent part of six seasons in Arizona earlier in his career and is making his first appearance for Houston Monday afternoon.