With Wandy Rodriguez facing his old team, the Pirates look to avoid matching a season high with their fifth straight defeat Tuesday night against the Astros.
After being swept in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh (70-64) managed five hits during a 5-1 loss Monday that snapped a six-game winning streak versus Houston. Losers in 20 of 30, the Pirates are 2 1/2 games out of the final NL wild-card spot"We've got to keep going," Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones said. "We've got to keep our heads high, keep our confidence high and get 'em (Tuesday)."
Jones had three of his team's hits against journeyman starter Edgar Gonzalez and two Houston relievers."We're in that little rut where it looks like we're hitting in a tea cup," said manager Clint Hurdle , whose team last lost five in a row from April 10-14.
Jones, however, is 6 for 7 in the last two games. He's batted .415 (17 for 41) with four homers and 11 RBIs in 12 games versus Houston this season.
In Rodriguez's first start since the Astros (42-93) traded him to Pittsburgh, the left-hander faced his former team July 28 and allowed three runs and walked five in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 4-3 win at Houston.
He opposes them this time coming off this best outing in a Pirates' uniform Wednesday when he gave up three hits in six innings of a 5-0 win over St. Louis. Though the victory was his first with Pittsburgh as a starter, Rodriguez is 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA in seven appearances - six starts - since he was acquired by the Pirates.
"I feel great," Rodriguez told the Pirates official website. "I came here to help the team, so when I win, I feel better."
He'll face a Houston lineup where Monday's first three hitters - Jose Altuve , Tyler Greene and Brett Wallace - went a combined 7 for 13. Wallace hit a three-run homer for the Astros, winners of two of three a following six-game skid.
Altuve is batting .385 (5 for 13) in his last four games against the Pirates after going 5 for 31 (.161) in his previous nine during the season series.
Scheduled Houston starter Jordan Lyles (3-10, 5.46) has a chance to win consecutive road starts for the first time in his career Tuesday. The right-hander was 0-10 with a 6.99 ERA in his first 17 road starts before he allowed a home run and two other hits in six innings of a 3-1 win at New York on Aug. 24.
However, Lyles is 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates. In his only start at PNC Park on July 2, he was tagged for seven runs in four innings of an 11-2 loss.
Lyles gave up three runs in five innings while not factoring in the decision of an 8-4 defeat to San Francisco on Thursday.
"I have to learn from my mistakes and somehow, when the offense does a good job, I have to learn how to manage the game and not give up three or four runs," Lyles said.
|August 30, 2012||Marwin Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Torn ligament, left ankle|
|August 28, 2012||Bud Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - blister|
|August 22, 2012||Justin Maxwell||Day-to-Day||Bruised right index finger|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|August 07, 2012||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Left shoulder separation|
|August 02, 2012||Francisco Cordero||15-Day DL||Inflamed right big toe|
|August 31, 2012||Jeff Karstens||Day-to-Day||Hip flexor|
|August 27, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|August 25, 2012||Chad Qualls||15-Day DL||Left toe sprain|
|August 25, 2012||Jose Tabata||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin discomfort|
|August 19, 2012||Starling Marte||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|August 15, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Dislocated finger|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Turns out all Andrew McCutchen needed to get going was a few at-bats against the Houston Astros .
Just like everybody else.
The All-Star center fielder put together his major league-leading sixth four-hit game of the season and drove in three runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over Houston on Tuesday night.
"It's just all about getting that feeling back," McCutchen said. "It felt pretty good tonight."
McCutchen has been slumping of late, coinciding with Pittsburgh's dip in the standings. He batted .252 in August after a red-hot July in which he hit .446 to fuel the Pirates' rise to playoff contention.
He preferred not to call it a slump as much as a "work in progress." It's one that took a major tick upward as the Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak to remain 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the National League's second wild card spot.
McCutchen bumped his average to .347, moving him ahead of suspended San Francisco outfielder Melky Cabrera for the best mark in baseball, though he insists he's paying no attention to the race for the batting title. There's too much work to be done for the Pirates.
"That will take care of itself," McCutchen said. "I just need to do what I do here. That's coming out and playing hard. That's all I can worry about."
McCutchen got some help from rookie Brock Holt - who had four hits in his third major league start - as the Pirates gave Wandy Rodriguez (10-13) plenty of support.
Rodriguez, acquired in a trade from the Astros on July 24, allowed four hits over seven shutout innings. The veteran left-hander struck out seven with just one walk to win for the third time in his past four starts.
"Beating this team is very special for me because I played for the Astros for a long time," Rodriguez said. "When the game started, I don't have any friends."
Jordan Lyles (3-11) gave up five runs - four earned - in 4 2-3 innings for Houston, which failed to win consecutive games for just the second time since the All-Star break.
"The whole night, the curveball wasn't there for me," Lyles said. "I think it comes down to delivery. I've got to work on being better out of the stretch, and tonight it wasn't there."
Houston, making its last appearance in Pittsburgh before jumping to the American League next season, sent the Pirates to a 5-1 loss on Monday.
The defeat was Pittsburgh's 10th in 13 games. Another one to the team with the worst record in baseball would have dealt a significant blow to a team chasing a playoff spot for the first time in 20 years.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle worried Rodriguez tried too hard to validate the deal when he first arrived in Pittsburgh. Rodriguez earned a no-decision against his old club in his first start as a Pirate four days after being dealt then went on to lose his next three starts.
A win in relief during a 19-inning marathon in St. Louis on Aug. 19 seemed to get Rodriguez back on track, and he's been one of Pittsburgh's best starters the past three trips through the rotation.
"Wandy was a guy we needed to be on and he was," Hurdle said. "After the first inning, very rhythmic, very in tempo, very in sync."
Rodriguez looked a little shaky early on following a 75-minute rain delay. Jose Altuve singled to lead off the game then stole second. Justin Maxwell walked with two outs, but Jason Castro grounded to short and from there Rodriguez cruised. Houston never got a runner to third over Rodriguez's final six innings.
Lyles wasn't so fortunate.
McCutchen put the Pirates up 1-0 in the first on an RBI double. Two innings later he gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead when he singled home Holt. Garrett Jones followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Pittsburgh added three more in the fifth as the worst team in baseball committed a costly mistake.
Holt doubled with one out and came home on a McCutchen single one batter later. Fernando Rodriguez relieved Lyles and after a walk to Jones got Pedro Alvarez to pop up to the left of second base.
One problem. Altuve, who was at second, and shortstop Tyler Greene couldn't decide who was going to catch it. The two players bumped into each other just as the ball caromed off Greene's glove. Two runs scored and the Astros were finished.
"That's a fly ball I should have," Greene said. "I just think we had just maybe a, you know, guys in different spots, maybe some miscommunication, but that's my responsibility being the shortstop out there. I've got to take charge, take control of what's going on."
NOTES: Walker is on track for a possible return by the weekend. Walker hasn't played since Aug. 26 due to a balky back ... Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez was the NL Player of the Week after going 11 for 24 (.458) with four home runs .. The series wraps on Wednesday. Houston's Fernando Abad (0-2, 4.83 ERA) faces Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia (9-8, 4.40).
Follow Will Graves on twitter at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP