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Houston at Pittsburgh

Venue: PNC Park
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The Pittsburgh Pirates managed to stop their latest skid at four, but if they want to have any shot at reaching the postseason for the first time in 20 years, they need to take advantage of their next four games as well.

The Pirates look to avoid becoming the first NL team this season to lose a home series to the Astros on Wednesday night as they continue a key stretch against baseball's bottom-feeders.

Houston and the Chicago Cubs are the NL's only clubs with worse records since Aug. 1 than Pittsburgh, which headed into Tuesday at 11-20 in that span after Monday's 5-1 loss to the Astros.

The Pirates (71-64) recovered for a 6-2 win Tuesday behind four hits apiece from infielder Brock Holt and center fielder Andrew McCutchen, allowing them to stay within 2 1/2 game of St. Louis for the NL's second wild-card spot.

McCutchen, who had been leading the major leagues in batting average until recently and hit just .252 in August, boosted his overall average back to .347 - a point ahead of suspended Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera.

"That will take care of itself," McCutchen said of a possible batting title. "I just need to do what I do here. That's coming out and playing hard. That's all I can worry about."

Pittsburgh hasn't won more than two in a row since a four-game streak against the Cubs and Astros (42-94) from July 25-28, but it could desperately use a hot streak the remainder of this week. Following the finale with Houston, Chicago comes to town for three games.

Including Wednesday's contest, 11 of the Pirates' final 27 games are against the majors' two worst teams.

Houston, 14-54 away from home, gets another chance to win its second road series of 2012. It beat the Chicago White Sox twice from June 8-10.

Taking another game in Pittsburgh seems highly unlikely if the Astros can't contain McCutchen. The MVP candidate is 19 for 38 with four homers and 12 RBIs in his last 10 home games in this series, and half of his major league-leading six four-hit games have come against Houston at PNC in 2012.

McCutchen singled in his only career at-bat against Fernando Abad (0-2, 4.83 ERA), who hasn't looked good in his first two major league starts after spending parts of three seasons in the bullpen. The left-hander allowed nine baserunners but just one run over four innings in a 3-1 loss to the Mets on Aug. 25, then was rocked for six runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 in a 9-3 loss to Cincinnati on Friday.

"We tried to get him stretched out, but you know it's about executing pitches," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said of Abad, who's 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in eight appearances against Pittsburgh.

Kevin Correia (9-8, 4.40) might also not be fully stretched out after bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation since the Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez in late July.

His last two appearances have been in long relief, most recently pitching four scoreless innings at Milwaukee on Friday.

The right-hander held the Astros to three runs over six innings in a 6-4 home win July 4, but surrendered four in two innings of relief at Minute Maid Park on July 29.

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

Fernando Abad, LHP
2012 stats
31.2 Innings Pitched 135.0
0-2 Wins-Losses 9-8
4.83 Earned Run Average 4.40
11 Walks 38
25 Strikeouts 64
78 Pitches Per Start 86
Career vs. opponent
6.0 Innings Pitched 43.2
0-1 Wins-Losses 1-1
9.00 Earned Run Average 4.53

Kevin Correia, RHP
Weather
weather image  Clearing skies. Warm.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
84°F67°F3mph/NW72%10%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Houston4th AL West6787.435284-6 L 4
Pittsburgh2nd NL Central8370.5422 ½ 8-2 W 5
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Kevin Correia
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Gonzalez220001.000
Downs110001.000
Greene110001.000
Moore43000.750
Bogusevic21011.500
 
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Fernando Abad
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Alvarez220001.000
McCutchen110001.000
Presley21000.500
Walker52000.400
Jones72001.286
 
Game Odds
AwayLineHomeLine
Houston 185 Pittsburgh -200
Injuries
Houston
PlayerInjury
M. AlbersShoulder
J. CisneroElbow
J. CrainBiceps, calf
C. McHughForearm
B. PeacockBack
G. SpringerKnee, quadriceps
J. ZeidFoot
Pittsburgh
PlayerInjury
P. AlvarezFoot
C. MortonHernia
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 11MILMIL 4-2Peralta Liriano 
Apr 12MILMIL 3-2Henderson Melancon 
Apr 13MILMIL 4-1Lohse Morton 
Apr 17PITPIT 11-2Volquez Wooten 
Apr 18PITMIL 5-3Lohse Morton 
Apr 19PITMIL 8-7Henderson Grilli 
Apr 20PITMIL 3-2Duke Gomez 
May 13MILMIL 5-2Estrada Cole 
May 14MILPIT 4-1Watson Rodriguez 
May 15MILMIL 4-3Wooten Melancon 
Jun 6PITPIT 15-5Cumpton Lohse 
Jun 7PITMIL 9-3Garza Volquez 
Jun 8PITMIL 1-0Gallardo Locke 
Aug 22MILPIT 8-3Locke Gallardo 
Aug 23MILPIT 10-2Volquez Peralta 
Aug 24MILMIL 4-3Fiers Worley 
Sep 19PITPIT 4-2Holdzkom Broxton 
Sep 20PIT 7:05 PM EDT  
Sep 21PIT 1:35 PM EDT