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Pirates Bats To Try To Stay Hot Against Astros

Follow the game over at Bucs Dugout.

Houston Astros (37-54) at Pittsburgh Pirates (31-59), 1:35 p.m.

Sports Network | July 18, 2010


(Sports Network) - Lefty Paul Maholm can establish a rarity for the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates -- a win streak -- when they host the Houston Astros in the finale of a three-game weekend series today at PNC Park.

The Pirates had lost seven straight games around the All-Star break before Saturday night, when Neil Walkercollected three hits, scored three times and knocked in a pair of runs as Pittsburgh pounded out 17 hits in a 12-6 win.

Jose Tabata and Lastings Milledge each had two hits and knocked in a pair of runs, while Garrett Jones,Pedro AlvarezErik Kratz and Ronny Cedeno also had two hits apiece.

Javier Lopez (2-1) earned the win by recording the final out in the fifth inning.

Brendan DonnellyEvan MeekJoel Hanrahan and Octavio Dotel then combined to retire the final 12 Houston hitters in succession to sew up Pittsburgh's first win over Houston in eight tries this season.

Bud Norris (2-7) took the loss after being charged with seven runs -- four earned -- on nine hits while walking two and striking out four over 4 2/3 innings for Houston, which has dropped three out of five.

Maholm, a product of Mississippi State University and a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) in 2003, is 8-5 lifetime against the Astros, but dropped a 4-3 decision in an April 23 matchup at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

In that game, he allowed six hits and two earned runs in seven innings, walking two batters and striking out three in his fourth start of the season.

He's won four of nine decisions in 14 outings since, including a 12-4 loss to Philadelphia on July 3 that was followed by seven strong innings - three hits, two runs - in a no-decision at Milwaukee six days later.

Maholm is 3-5 in eight home starts and the Pirates are 8-10 in games he's pitched.

For Houston, veteran ace Roy Oswalt looks for a second defeat of Pittsburgh in as many starts.

He beat the Pirates, 2-0, on July 8, going the distance while surrendering a single hit and striking out eight batters. It raised his lifetime mark against Pittsburgh to 15-7 and lowered his earned run average against the Buccos to 2.50.

Oswalt also downed the Pirates - and Maholm - in the aforementioned April 23 game, scattering four hits and allowing a pair of earned runs in seven innings.

The 32-year-old Mississippi native has allowed just 41 earned runs in 120 innings this season and is the subject of some trade talk now that the Astros have plunged out of contention in the National League's Central Division.

Houston is 7-11 in the games Oswalt has pitched.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.