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The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ once-promising season is spiraling in the direction of their previous 20. After letting a three-run lead go by the boards en route to being unceremoniously swept by Milwaukee, the Pirates will look to rebound on Friday when they open a three-game set against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Pittsburgh fell below .500 for the first time since May 29 after suffering its 15th loss in 19 outings with a 9-7 setback on Thursday. The Pirates sit 5 1/2 games behind St. Louis in the race for the second wild card.
While Pittsburgh teased a better ending to its season, the bloom has been off the rose in Houston for quite some time. The Astros followed a spirited series with Philadelphia by falling flat in a three-game sweep against the Cardinals. Houston and Pittsburgh will play their last series as National League Central rivals before the former moves to the AL West to begin the 2013 season.
Pirates Astros Betting
When: 8:05 PM ET, Friday, September 21, 2012
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSH (Houston)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates LH Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.49 ERA) vs. Astros RH Edgar Gonzalez (2-1, 4.40)
Locke recorded his lone decision after being touched for five runs on seven hits in a 5-1 loss to Houston on Sept. 3. The 24-year-old allowed the same amount of runs and hits in his last outing, but walked away without a decision in the Cubs’ 13-9 triumph on Sunday. Locke has issued a pair of homers in each of his last two starts.
The Astros would love a repeat performance of Gonzalez’s first start this season. The 29-year-old Mexican yielded one run on five hits and struck out as many in 5 1/3 innings in that Sept. 3 victory over Pittsburgh. Gonzalez was blitzed in his last outing, permitting five runs in four innings en route to a 12-6 loss to Philadelphia on Friday.
1. Pittsburgh CF Andrew McCutchen went deep for the second straight game with a three-run shot on Thursday. McCutchen failed to get a hit against Gonzalez in three at-bats on Sept. 3.
2. Houston SS Jed Lowrie was held out of the starting lineup on Thursday as he works his way back from a severe right knee injury. Lowrie, who is riding a five-game hitting streak, is expected to play on Friday.
3. Pittsburgh INF Clint Barmes homered to highlight his third multi-hit game in six outings on Thursday. He had an RBI single off Gonzalez for the Pirates’ lone run on Sept. 3.