PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 06: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates miss plays a ball in the ninth that allowed two runs to score against the Houston Astros during the game on September 6, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Astros defeated the Pirates 4-1. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
With their playoff hopes fading, the Pittsburgh Pirates travel to Houston to take on the Astros for a three-game series beginning Friday.
The Pirates now sit 5½ games back of a National League Wild Card spot after getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers this week. Pittsburgh's 9-7 loss on Thursday was particularly stinging, as it was the result of a blown 7-4 lead in the eighth inning.
Working in the Pirates' favor, however, is their 11-3 overall record this season against the Astros, who were swept themselves by the St. Louis Cardinals this week and carry a major league-worst 102 losses into the weekend.
Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.49 ERA) makes the start for Pittsburgh after allowing five earned runs in 4⅓ innings on Sept. 16 against the Chicago Cubs, getting a no-decision in the contest. Houston will counter with Edgar Gonzalez (2-1, 4.40 ERA), who was touched up for five earned runs in four innings in his last appearance, a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 14.
First pitch is set for 8:05 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park. Root Sports will televise the contest.
For coverage of the Pirates and their playoff hunt, visit Bucs Dugout, and for news on the Astros, head over to The Crawfish Boxes. Visit SB Nation's Pittsburgh page for all of the city's sports news.