Pirates Vs. Astros: Pittsburgh Completes 4-Game Sweep

The Pirates maintained their winning ways on Thursday night, completing a 4-game sweep of the Astros on a dominant performance from starting pitcher Jeff Karstens. The Bucs are now 10 games over .500.

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MLB Standings: Pirates 2 Games Up In NL Central

With the Pirates completing a sweep of the Houston Astros and the Cincinnati Reds losing to the San Diego Padres Thursday, the Bucs moved a full two games up on the rest of the N.L. Central.

The Reds scored an early run in San Diego but gave up one run each in the eighth and ninth and lost 2-1. They've now lost three in a row, while the Pirates have won four straight.

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Colorado Rockies 6-2 to remain 2.5 games back of the Pirates.

Here are the full N.L. Central standings.

Pirates 46-36
Reds 44-38 2 GB
Cardinals 44-39 2.5 GB
Brewers 38-44 8 GB
Astros 32-51 14.5 GB
Cubs 31-51 15 GB

The Pirates open a series against the San Francisco Giants Friday night at PNC Park.

For the full MLB standings, click here.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Reds, there's Red Reporter.

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Pirates Vs. Astros Recap: Bucs Complete 4-Game Sweep, Move 10 Games Over .500

The Pittsburgh Pirates continued their winning ways on Thursday, completing a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 2-0 victory. Jeff Karstens made his third start since returning to the rotation at the end of June, and he was absolutely dominant against the woeful Astros' lineup. Karstens had a rocky first start in his return, but rebounded with a quality outing this past weekend against the Cardinals. He took it up a notch on Thursday for his second straight win, striking out eight and allowing just four hits in eight shutout innings.

Joel Hanrahan came on in the ninth and preserved the shutout, although not entirely without drama. The Hammer walked two batters in the ninth but had the leadoff walk erased by a Scott Moore double play. A Chris Johnson flyout ended the game and put the Bucs 10 games over .500 at 46-36.

Houston's Bud Norris was not bad himself, but the Pirates managed a run in the second and third inning to give Karstens all the cushion he would need. Garrett Jones led off the second with a double and was immediately brought home by Casey McGehee, who followed Jones' double to right for the opening run. Karstens helped himself one inning later by scoring the second run of the night on a sacrifice fly by Jones. Karstens led off the inning with a single and was moved to third on a Neil Walker ground-rule double, setting up the sac fly.

With the Astros departing bruised and battered, the San Francisco Giants now come to PNC Park for the final series before the All-Star break. Erik Bedard and Barry Zito will pitch in Game 1 on Friday night.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Astros, there's Crawfish Boxes.

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Astros Vs. Pirates Lineups: Newcomer Matt Dominguez Joins Astros

Thursday night's matchup between the Houston Astros and the Pirates (7:05) features Bud Norris, who has dominated the Pirates in the past at times, taking on Jeff Karstens, as the Bucs go for a sweep. The Astros have a new lineup after dealing Carlos Lee to the Marlins on Wednesday, with newcomer Matt Dominguez taking over third base and batting eighth. Dominguez was the Marlins' first-round pick in 2007, but he has struggled to hit throughout the minors and only posted a .647 OPS for the Marlins' AAA team this year. So moving him straight to the majors seems like an odd decision, regardless of how thin the Astros' organization might be, or the quality of Dominguez's defense.

Before the game, the Pirates placed Alex Presley on the 7-day DL with concussion-like symptoms and promoted infielder Jordy Mercer, who will be available off the bench.

Astros:

Jose Altuve 2B
Jed Lowrie SS
Scott Moore RF
J.D. Martinez LF
Chris Johnson 1B
Brian Bogusevic CF
Chris Snyder C
Matt Dominguez 3B
Bud Norris P

Pirates:

Drew Sutton LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones RF
Casey McGehee 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
Jeff Karstens P

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Astros, there's Crawfish Boxes.

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Astros Vs. Pirates Preview: Bucs Go For Sweep

The Pirates will try to complete a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros Thursday night (7:05) as Jeff Karstens faced Bud Norris.

Norris has pitched very well against the Pirates in his career, striking out 65 batters and walking just 15 in 55 innings. He also shut them down completely in early May, allowing no earned runs while whiffing eight batters in six innings.

There's reason to hope things might be different this time, though -- none of the Pirates offenses Norris has faced have been as potent as the one that's been carrying the Pirates for the past month. He's also struggled with home runs, allowing seven in his last four starts, and the Bucs' offense has hit home runs by the bushels recently.

Karstens struggled in his return from the disabled list on June 25, allowing six earned runs in five innings against the Phillies, but he rebounded to whiff seven in seven innings against the Cardinals.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Astros, there's Crawfish Boxes.

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MLB Standings: Pirates In Sole Possession Of First Place In NL Central

With the Pirates' win over the Astros and the Reds' loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday, the Bucs moved a full game up on the competition in the NL Central.

Aaron Harang pitched seven strong innings for Los Angeles to beat his old team, who have now lost two in a row.

Here are the full standings for the NL Central.

Pirates 45-26
Reds 44-37, 1 GB
Cardinals 43-39, 2.5 GB
Brewers 38-43, 7 GB
Astros 32-50, 13.5 GB
Cubs 31-50, 14 GB

Coolstandings gives the Pirates a 67% chance of making the playoffs at this point, although Baseball Prospectus, which adjusts for runs scored and allowed as well as the components thereof (the number of total bases accumulated and allowed, for example), isn't nearly so excited about the Bucs' chances. Nonetheless, the Pirates' schedule throughout the rest of July gives them a good chance of staying in the race for a while, with lots of games coming up against the Rockies, Astros and Cubs.

For the full MLB standings, click here.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Reds, there's Red Reporter.

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Astros Vs. Pirates Final Score: Pittsburgh Wins Third In A Row, 6-4

The Pittsburgh Pirates took the first two games of a four game series agains the Houston Astros in very different ways. The Buccos blew out Houston in the series opener and then picked up another win on Tuesday thanks to a walk-off home run. On Wednesday afternoon, the Pirates were able to pick up their third win of the series against the Astros.

Houston was actually able to get on the scoreboard first, picking up two runs in the second inning thanks to a Jason Castro sacrifice and Brian Bogusevic single to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. The Pirates' bats answered the call in the bottom of the second inning however, picking up three runs. Michael McKenry knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly, which was followed up by a Clint Barmes single to left field knocking in two more runs to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

The Pirates added some insurance in the fourth inning, as McKenry knocked in another run on a double to left field. In the fifth inning, Houston cut into the Pirates' lead on a Jose Altuve groundout, but that wasn't enough to catch the Pirates. Pittsburgh added two more runs on a Pedro Alvarez single in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving the Buccos a 6-3 lead and the eventual 6-4 victory.

The Pirates will play for the sweep on Thursday evening.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Astros, there's Crawfish Boxes. Head over to Baseball Nation for more news and notes around the Major Leagues.

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Pirates Vs. Astros Game 3 Lineup: Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia Is Looking For First Win Against Houston

The Pittsburgh Pirates are sending out Kevin Correia to pitch against the Houston Astros, a team that he has never beat in his career. Correia has also not won a home game against a National League opponent. The Astros are sending out Dallas Keuchel, who is 1-0 on the year and has only three career starts to his name, and through those starts he has an ERA of 1.35.

The Pirates did make a few changes in their lineup with Casey McGehee who is in the lineup at first base instead of third base, and Pedro Alvarez will be handling third base duties Wednesday afternoon. Catcher Michael McKenry is also getting the start today, and he will bat seventh.

Pedro Alvarez is back in the Pirates' lineup; Alex Presley, who left Tuesday's game with concussion symptoms, is out.

Pirates lineup:
1. Drew Sutton LF
2. Neil Walker 2B
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Casey McGehee 1B
5. Garnett Jones RF
6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
7. Michael McKenry C
8. Clint Barmes SS
9. Kevin Correia P

Astros lineup:
1. Jordan Schafer CF
2. Jose Altuve 2B
3. Jed Lowrie SS
4. Carlos Lee 1B
5. Scott Moore 3B
6. Jason Castro C
7. J.D. Martinez LF
8. Brian Bogusevic RF
9. Dallas Keuchel P

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Astros, there's Crawfish Boxes. Head over to Baseball Nation for more news and notes around the Major Leagues.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

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Astros Vs. Pirates: Bucs Go For Third Straight Win

The Pirates continue their series against the Astros at 1:35 p.m. Wednesday for a July 4th game, as Dallas Keuchel faces Kevin Correia.

Keuchel, 24, has just three major-league starts to his name. He has a 1.35 ERA in those starts, but with nine walks and just eight strikeouts, and his minor-league record is an unimpressive one -- he had just 46 strikeouts in 80.1 innings at Class AAA Oklahoma City this year. His fastball velocity also averages 88 MPH. So this probably isn't a pitcher who would be in a rotation of a good major-league team, and hopefully the Pirates can take advantage.

Correia allowed five runs in his last start, which the Pirates won over the Cardinals, 14-5. Before that, he pitched a quality start against the Tigers. Correia has struck out just 34 batters in 85.1 innings so far this season, walking 25.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Astros, there's Crawfish Boxes.

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MLB Standings: Pirates Tied With Reds For First Place

After Drew Sutton's heroic walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday night against the Houston Astros, the Pirates put themselves into a position to tie for the NL Central lead. They did indeed finish the night in first place, as the Cincinnati Reds lost 3-1 to the Dodgers in a West Coast game.

The Bucs and Reds are both 44-36, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost 3-2 to the Rockies on Tuesday, are 2.5 games back. Here are the full NL Central standings.

Pirates 44-36
Reds 44-36
Cardinals 42-39, 2.5 GB
Brewers 38-42, 6 GB
Astros 32-49, 12.5 GB
Cubs 30-50, 14 GB

The Pirates are also just ahead of all the Wild Card teams. The Dodgers are 45-37, and the Mets are 44-37. The Nationals and Giants lead the NL East and NL West, respectively.

For the entire MLB standings, click here.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Reds, there's Red Reporter.

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Astros Vs. Pirates Recap: Bucs Win In Dramatic Walk-Off Fashion

The Pittsburgh Pirates took the second of their four-game series against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night in a dramatic 8-7 win. With the game tied 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Drew Sutton capped an impressive three-hit night with a walk-off blast over the centerfield wall. It was another great night at PNC Park, with the Bucs getting the last big hit in a see-saw game.

The Bucs fell behind 4-0 early as A.J. Burnett was roughed up by a mediocre Houston lineup. But the duo of Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones continued their big series to get Pittsburgh back into it. McCutchen fired a two-run homer to right to cut the early lead in half and Jones gave the Bucs their first lead of the night with his own two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. One inning prior, Pedro Alvarez chipped in with a huge pinch-hit single that scored Neil Walker and Casey McGehee. That put the Bucs in position for the Jones heroics in the seventh.

But the recently named All-Star Joel Hanrahan blew his third save of the season in the top of the ninth. A walk to Jed Lowrie came back to haunt him when pinch hitter Jason Castro doubled to deep right to tie things up. However, Hanrahan's offense -- namely Sutton -- was there to pick him up in the bottom of the inning and hand the closer his fourth win of the season.

Read more about the Pirates at Bucs Dugout and check out Crawfish Boxes for more on the Astros. Baseball Nation is your source for news and analysis around Major League Baseball. Also subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube channel for video commentary.

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Pirates Vs. Astros: Tuesday Starting Lineups

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently sit seven games over .500, and as a result, just one game behind of the Cincinnati Reds in the N.L. Central standings. One of the reasons is because of starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. The 6-foot-4 right-hander takes the hill on Tuesday, going for his ninth consecutive winning start. In 13 starts this season, Burnett has gone 9-2 and posted a 3.31 ERA. He'll be acing Houston's Lucas Harrell, who is 7-6 with a 4.33 ERA this season.

First pitch at PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. EST and will be televised by ROOT Sports.

Here are Tuesday's starting lineups:

Astros (32-48)

Jordan Schafer CF
Jose Altuve 2B
Jed Lowrie SS
Carlos Lee 1B
Scott Moore 3B
J.D. Martinez LF
Brian Bogusevic RF
Chris Snyder C
Lucas Harrell P

Pirates (43-36)

Alex Presley LF
Neil Walker 2B
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones RF
Casey McGehee 1B
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
A.J. Burnett P

UPDATE by Charlie Wilmoth:

The Pirates have removed Pedro Alvarez from their lineup. There's no immediate word as to why, although Alvarez suffered from a leg cramp last weekend. Here's the new lineup.

Alex Presley LF
Drew Sutton RF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Garrett Jones 1B
Neil Walker 2B
Casey McGehee 3B
Rod Barajas C
Clint Barmes SS
A.J. Burnett P

Read more about the Pirates at Bucs Dugout and check out Crawfish Boxes for more on the Astros. Baseball Nation is your source for news and analysis around Major League Baseball. Also subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube channel for video commentary.

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Astros Vs. Pirates: Game Time, TV Schedule And More

The first pitch from Lucas Harrell is scheduled to be thrown at 7:05 p.m at PNC Park and will be televised on Root Sports-Pittsburgh and Fox Sports Houston.

In the first game of four-game series between the two NL Central opponents, the Pirates easily won with an 11-2 showing. Now they'll look to make it back to back victories as A.J. Burnett is set to take the mound for Pittsburgh in an attempt to win his ninth consecutive start.

The last time Burnett earned a loss was on May 2 when he allowed 12 runs and two home runs in less than three innings pitched in a 12-3 defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals. Since then, Burnett has watched his ERA drop from 8.01 to 3.31 and has earned eight straight wins. The last time he didn't earn a decision was against the Astros On May 13.

Looking to snap that streak for the Astros will be Lucas Harrell, who is coming off a complete game shutout in his last outing. On Wednesday, Harrell allowed six hits, but not a single run as he struck out seven Padres en route to a 1-0 win.

Read more about the Pirates at Bucs Dugout and check out Crawfish Boxes for more on the Astros. Baseball Nation is your source for news and analysis around Major League Baseball. Also subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube channel for video commentary.

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Astros Vs. Pirates: A.J. Burnett, Bucs Try To Keep Rolling

The Pirates couldn't gain any ground on the first-place Cincinnati Reds despite a convincing 11-2 win over the Houston Astros Tuesday night, but they'll get another chance to grab a share of the NL Central lead on Tuesday (7:05).

A.J. Burnett will take the ball against Lucas Harrell, a minor-league veteran who's found a home in the Houston rotation this season despite a mediocre strikeout rate and underwhelming minor-league results. Harrell's last start was a complete-game shutout against the Padres, but the Pirates have won or tied every series they've played since being swept by the Orioles three weeks ago, and there's no reason they can't guarantee at least another series wtie Tuesday with Burnett, one of their better starters, on the hill.

The Reds, meanwhile, will be at Dodger Stadium, with All-Star snub Johnny Cueto taking on Chris Capuano (10:10). If the Pirates can win Tuesday night, many fans' eyes will turn to Los Angeles.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.

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Astros Vs. Pirates Recap: Bucs Pour It On In 11-2 Series-Opening Win

After a successful weekend series in St Louis, the the Pittsburgh Pirates returned home to take the opening game of their series against the Houston Astros in an 11-2 blowout. It was a bit of a slow start but the Bucs' offense busted out against Jordan Lyles for two huge back-to-back innings. It was the heart of the order who did plenty of damage on Monday night with both Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones coming through with four-hit performances. Jones finished with four RBIs and a late two-run double by Neil Walker finished his evening with three RBIs.

A four-run fourth and a four-run fifth quickly put this one out of reach. Jones started the scoring with a two-run shot to right that gave the Bucs their first lead of the game. Walker then strode into the box and made it back-to-back for the Bucs, taking another Lyles offering over the right field wall. Casey McGehee followed with a third straight extra base hit, doubling to deep right and Clint Barmes promptly knocked him in -- the rout was on.

But the Bucs weren't done there, quickly coming back in the bottom of the fifth with three more extra base hits to chase Lyles. Drew Sutton led off with a triple and two straight doubles by McCutchen and Jones ended the Houston starter's night. Reliever Rhiner Cruz yielded a double to McGehee that brought home Jones and Walker and pushed the lead to 8-1.

Starter James McDonald was not his sharpest, issuing five walks, but he avoided the damage and allowed just two runs in seven innings of work. McDonald gave up just four hits to ensure the walks did not come back to bite him and the offensive outburst ensured his eighth win of the season.

A.J. Burnett will take the hill in the second game of the four-game series on Tuesday night while Lucas Harrell will go for the 'Stros.

Read more about the Pirates at Bucs Dugout and check out Crawfish Boxes for more on the Astros. Baseball Nation is your source for news and analysis around Major League Baseball. Also subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube channel for video commentary.

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Andrew McCutchen Named NL Player Of The Month For June

The hits just keep coming for Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen. On Monday, it was announced that McCutchen was voted the National League Player of the Month for June.

Through 27 June games, McCutchen posted a batting average of .370, the third best mark among all qualified players in baseball, with 40 hits. He had 73 total bases, which tied him for the most last month with Robinson Cano of the Yankees. The outfielder added seven home runs and 26 RBI to his impressive June totals. His overall slash line last month was .370/.420/.732.

The 25-year-old outfielder has been an essential part of team challenging for the lead in the NL Central. Pittsburgh posted a 17-10 record last month, and is one game behind the Reds for the division lead.

McCutchen will make his second All-Star appearance on July 10 in Kansas City. This is the first time McCutchen was named the Player of the Month. He is the first Pirate to win the award since Jason Bay in May 2006.

Read more about the Pirates at Bucs Dugout and check out Crawfish Boxes for more on the Astros. Baseball Nation is your source for news and analysis around Major League Baseball. Also subscribe to the SB Nation Youtube channel for video commentary.

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Pirates Vs. Astros: Pittsburgh Chasing NL Central Lead With All-Star Break Looming

The Pittsburgh Pirates open a four-game series at home against the Houston Astros. Can they turn that into an NL Central lead?

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