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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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The Pittsburgh Pirates are one game behind Cincinnati for the lead in the National League Central. With two series left before the All-Star break, Clint Hurdle's club has a chance to leap the Reds with a four game home set against the Houston Astros.

In May, the Pirates won two of three against the Astros. Andrew McCutchen had a big series the last time out, collecting five hits, including a home run in three games. This time his status is in doubt after spraining his wrist while diving for a ball against the Cardinals on Sunday. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who has two home runs and nine RBI in his last four games, could also be out of the lineup after leaving with leg cramps on Sunday.

Right-hander James McDonald gets the ball for Pittsburgh, looking for his third straight win. McDonald gave up just one run in eight innings in his last start against Houston, but the Pirates lost in a 1-0 game. Jordan Lyles starts for Houston.

The game starts at 7:05 p.m. Eastern, and can be seen on ROOT Sports.

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.

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