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Pirates And Astros Battle To Avoid The Cellar

Follow the game over at Bucs Dugout.

Pittsburgh Pirates (30-52) at Houston Astros (32-51), 8:05 p.m.

Sports Network | July 6, 2010


(Sports Network) - Two of the bottom teams in the National League get together tonight when the Houston Astros host the Pittsburgh Pirates in game one of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros, who finished fifth in the NL Central last season, occupy that spot again at the midway point this year, winning just 32 of their first 83 games while sitting 15 1/2 games off the pace of the first-place Cincinnati Reds.

The Pirates, who were last in the six-team loop in 2009, are back in a familiar spot as well with just 30 wins in 82 tries, 1 1/2 games in back of the Astros and 17 behind the Reds.

Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez, a 14-game winner last season, can stretch his 2010 win streak to three games with a victory in tonight's assignment.

The 31-year-old had never earned more than 10 wins in a season before emerging in 2009 and posting a 3.02 earned run average across 205 2/3 innings in 33 starts.

He struggled from the outset this year, however, losing his initial two decisions in April as Houston was outscored, 8-0, and reaching 10 losses with a 9-3 interleague defeat against Texas on June 18.

The two most recent outings have gone better, though, resulting in wins over San Francisco and Milwaukee on June 24 and 30, respectively, while he allowed just one earned run and 11 hits in 13 innings.

Rodriguez improved his career record against the Pirates to 5-4 in their last meeting, scoring a 5-2 win on April 24 after he gave up five hits and one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.

Pittsburgh sends rookie right-hander and Texas native Brad Lincoln to the mound for his sixth career start.

The fourth overall selection in the 2006 draft and a product of the University of Houston, Lincoln debuted in the major leagues on June 9 with a six-inning outing in the Pirates' 7-5 loss at Washington.

He lost twice and picked up two no-decisions in his initial four starts before breaking through for a win in his most recent outing, a 2-0 defeat of the Chicago Cubs in which he allowed four hits and struck out six in seven scoreless innings.

Lincoln, who turned 25 in May, is holding opponents to a .277 batting average and is 1-1 in three road starts.

On Sunday in Pittsburgh, Garrett Jones knocked in three runs and Delwyn Young struck a key blow with a pinch-hit two-run double as the Pirates used a late burst of offense to down Philadelphia, 8-5, in the finale of a four-game set.

Pedro Alvarez homered and drove in two runs for the Pirates, who won three of four in the series.

Evan Meek (4-2) picked up the win after hurling a perfect seventh inning in relief. Octavio Dotel, who picked up his 19th save, locked down all three Pittsburgh wins in this battle of Pennsylvania clubs.

In San Diego, Tony Gwynn singled in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Padres to a dramatic 3-2 win over Houston to finish off a four-game set.

Brandon Lyon (5-3) suffered the loss after allowing the decisive run on two hits and three walks over 1 1/3 innings for Houston, which has dropped four out of six.

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