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Daniel McCutchen, Bucs Take On Astros

Follow the game at Bucs Dugout.

Pittsburgh Pirates (30-53) at Houston Astros (33-51), 8:05 p.m.

Sports Network | July 7, 2010

 

(Sports Network) - The Houston Astros will be out to continue their recent mastery of the Pittsburgh Pirates when the two National League Central inhabitants continue a three-game series from Minute Maid Park this evening.

Houston swept a three-game set from the lowly Pirates in Pittsburgh from April 23-25 and got the better of the Bucs in Tuesday's opener of this series, with Wandy Rodriguez delivering seven strong innings and Lance Berkman knocking in three runs to lead the Astros to a 6-2 triumph.

Rodriguez (6-10) racked up a season-best 10 strikeouts and limited the Pirates to one run on four hits as Houston halted a three-game losing streak. The left-hander was staked to an early 5-0 lead, as the Astros scored twice in the first inning and three more times in the third.

Berkman had a two-run homer and Carlos Lee added a two-run shot as part of a 2-for-4 night. Jeff Keppingerfinished 3-for-4 for the Astros and contributed an RBI double to the winning effort.

"It's nice to see 2-3-4-5 [in the lineup] get the big portion of our hits tonight," said Houston manager Brad Mills in reference to Keppinger, Berkman, Lee and Hunter Pence. The foursome went a combined 8-for-16 and knocked in all six of the team's runs.

Both Berkman and Lee's homers came off Pittsburgh starter Brad Lincoln (1-3), with the rookie and Houston-area native tagged for five runs before exiting after five innings.

"It never seemed like [Lincoln] had much going," said Pirates manager John Russell. "His command wasn't there, he got behind, which doesn't help with his breaking ball. He just didn't really seem like he attacked the zone early."

Pittsburgh had won four times in a five-game stretch prior to Tuesday's setback, but still sits at the bottom of the NL Central standings with a 30-53 record. The Astros are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Pirates in fifth place and have now prevailed in seven of their past eight meetings with the Bucs dating back to last season.

While Houston tries to keep its dominance in this series intact, scheduled starter Brian Moehler will be seeking to build off a solid effort his last time out when he takes the ball this evening. The veteran journeyman held NL West leader San Diego to a run on four hits through 5 2/3 innings on Thursday, although he wound up with a no-decision in the Astros' eventual 6-3 win.

Moehler allowed three runs -- two earned -- in five innings to beat Texas in his previous start back on June 25 and has posted a 2.70 ERA over his last three mound trips. The 38-year-old doesn't have a great track record against Pittsburgh, however, as he's just 6-7 with a 5.47 ERA in 18 lifetime matchups (15 starts) with the Pirates.

Pittsburgh, which has now lost 19 of its last 21 on the road, will be hoping for a repeat performance from youngster Daniel McCutchen in tonight's game. The rookie came through with his first win of 2010 after permitting two runs -- one earned -- over 5 1/3 effective innings against reigning NL champion Philadelphia this past Thursday.

McCutchen began the season in the Pirates rotation but was shipped to Triple A after going 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA in three April starts. The 27-year-old was called back to the majors on June 26 to replace the injured Zach Duke and was dealt another loss on that day, as he was reached for four runs over six innings against Oakland.

The right-hander's only previous appearance against the Astros occurred in relief, with McCutchen working a scoreless inning on April 24.

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