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Pittsburgh at Houston

Venue: Minute Maid Park
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While they're surely excited about facing their former teammate over the weekend, the major league-worst Houston Astros can't be looking forward to a matchup against Jeff Karstens.

With Karstens looking to win a fifth straight start in this series and a fourth consecutive decision overall, the Pittsburgh Pirates try to extend their winning streak over Houston to eight Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

After missing more than two months with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, Karstens (3-2, 3.52 ERA) was hit hard in his first start since being removed from the disabled list June 25 but has been superb since. The right-hander has gone 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA over his last four outings spanning 29 innings, allowing 19 hits and seven walks.

"I'm not trying to blow fastballs by people; I'm just trying to keep people off-balance, and when they do hit the ball hard, hopefully it's right at us," he said.

Karstens was terrific again Sunday, throwing seven innings of five-hit ball during a 3-0 win over Miami.

"When Jeff is on, he reads swings well, keeps the ball down, works quick, keeps his fielders in play," manager Clint Hurdle said. "And that's what we saw today."

Karstens' recent success shouldn't come as much of a surprise to the Astros (34-66), whom he's defeated five times - his most wins against any opponent. Karstens has been nearly untouchable in winning each of his last four starts in this series, allowing one run and one walk over 30 2-3 innings.

He scattered four hits and struck out a season-high eight in eight innings of a 2-0 win over the Astros on July 5. In his last visit to Houston, Karstens threw a five-hitter for his second career shutout in a 4-0 victory July 15, 2011.

The Astros also failed to get much going against A.J. Burnett during Thursday's series opener, falling 5-3. It was Pirates top prospect Starling Marte, though, who stole the show, homering on the first pitch he saw in his big league debut.

"That was a swing that touched a lot of people," Hurdle added. "Starling has been a special player all the way up. He's been a lot of places and a lot of people have had the opportunity to watch him. We've got an entire minor league system and an academy in the Dominican Republic pulling for him."

Garrett Jones and Clint Barmes also went deep for Pittsburgh (56-42), which has outscored Houston 40-20 during its seven-game run.

The Astros have dropped 23 of 25 overall - including a season-worst 10 in a row by a 72-30 margin. They haven't lost 11 straight since Aug. 17-28, 1995.

"It's hard coming in every day and getting beat; guys are getting (ticked) off a little bit, and they want to come out here and get a win," said Chris Johnson, who hit his seventh homer Thursday. "Tomorrow we are going to have to come out here and do whatever we can to get a win. That is what it has to be."

Houston now turns to Jordan Lyles (2-7, 5.50). The right-hander yielded a career-worst eight runs - five earned - and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings Sunday in an 8-2 loss at Arizona, dropping to 0-3 with a 7.54 ERA in four starts this month. He surrendered seven runs and nine hits over four-plus innings during an 11-2 defeat at Pittsburgh on July 2.

Lyles, though, has held his own at home, where he's 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA over his last four starts.

Wandy Rodriguez, who spent his first seven-plus seasons with Houston before getting traded to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, will take the mound against the Astros on Saturday.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Probable Starters

Jeff Karstens, RHP
2012 stats
46.0 Innings Pitched 73.2
3-2 Wins-Losses 2-7
3.52 Earned Run Average 5.50
9 Walks 23
31 Strikeouts 44
81 Pitches Per Start 95
Career vs. opponent
54.0 Innings Pitched 9.2
5-2 Wins-Losses 0-2
2.83 Earned Run Average 9.31

Jordan Lyles, RHP
Weather
weather image  More clouds than sun. Hot.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
93°F76°F8mph/S61%3%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Pittsburgh3rd NL Central7166.51836-4 L 2
Houston4th AL West5979.428255-5 W 2
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Jordan Lyles
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Jones53201.600
McCutchen53010.600
Barmes21000.500
McGehee52002.400
Walker52102.400
 
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Jeff Karstens
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Francisco42001.500
Moore31001.333
Altuve41000.250
Snyder41010.250
Johnson123004.250
 

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Game Odds
AwayLineHomeLine
Pittsburgh -140 Houston 130
Injuries
Pittsburgh
PlayerInjury
P. AlvarezFoot
C. MortonHernia
T. SniderHamstring
Houston
PlayerInjury
M. AlbersShoulder
J. CisneroElbow
J. CrainBiceps, calf
M. GonzalezHamstring
A. PresleyOblique
G. SpringerKnee, quadriceps
J. ZeidFoot
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 4HOULAA 11-1Richards Harrell 
Apr 5HOULAA 5-1Skaggs Keuchel 
Apr 6HOUHOU 7-4Feldman Weaver 
Apr 7HOULAA 9-1Wilson Cosart 
May 19LAAHOU 5-2Keuchel Richards 
May 20LAALAA 9-3Skaggs Feldman 
May 21LAALAA 2-1Weaver McHugh 
Jun 3HOUHOU 7-2McHugh Wilson 
Jun 4HOULAA 4-0Richards Cosart 
Jun 5HOUHOU 8-5Peacock Skaggs 
Jul 3LAALAA 5-2Shoemaker Oberholtzer 
Jul 4LAALAA 7-6Smith Sipp 
Jul 5LAALAA 11-5Roth Bass 
Jul 6LAALAA 6-1Richards McHugh 
Sep 2HOU 8:10 PM EDT  
Sep 3HOU 8:10 PM EDT  
Sep 12LAA10:05 PM EDT  
Sep 13LAA 9:05 PM EDT  
Sep 14LAA 3:35 PM EDT