Coming off a 4-2 road trip, the Pirates have a big weekend set starting tonight against the last place Houston Astros at home.
The Pirates who are 15-16 on the season, can move to .500 at the 32 game mark with a win tonight. Tonight begins a seven game home stand.
The Pirates have posted an 11-8 record on the road but are just 4-8 at home in 12 games.
Starter Paul Maholm (1-4, 4.14 ERA) takes the mound for the Pirates and is coming off a couple spotty starts of late.
Malholm though is 6-1 with a 1.52 ERA in his last 7 home starts against the Houston Astros. He is 1-2 at home this season.
The Astors will send Wayne Rodriguez (1-3, 4.26 ERA) to the mound and like Maholm, Rodriguez has had an up and down season but looks to continue his dominance against the Pirates. The lefty has gone 3-0 with a 0.77 ERA in his last three starts versus Pittsburgh. During those three starts he has collected 28 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
The Pirates will go with a heavy right handed lineup and Jose Tabata will return to the lineup after missing four games with a right hamstring injury.
Pedro Alvarez remains day to day with a right quad injury and will not play.
Also on the injury front, Ross Ohlendorf is throwing some bullpen sessions during pregame workouts.
Some are calling the Pirates seven game home stand a pivotal home stand as the Pirates look to change their fortunes at home.
They are not only 4-8 at home but they are hitting a MLB worst .199 at home.
Why is there finally some optimism around the team?
15-16 is mediocre baseball but this team finally has a different feel about them and for the first time in several years, there is a young core in place that fans can actually follow. The likes of the team trotting Andy Laroche and Aki Iwamura out there are a thing of the past and that’s been a key to what appears to be the Pirates finally getting the non hardcore baseball fan at least intrigued about them.
The 2011 season is not about wins and losses and more about continued development in keys areas, however, if the Pirates can put together a respectable 4-3 or 5-2 homestand, the fan base will be buzzing going into the middle of May. For a starving fan base that is finally progress.
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, .221
2. Jose Tabata, LF, .242
3. Matt Diaz, RF, .232
4. Neil Walker, 2B, .286
5. Chris Snyder, C, .295
6. Lyle Overbay, 1B, .226
7. Brandon Wood, 3B, .235
8. Ronny Cendeno, SS, .212
9. Paul Maholm, P