Pirates (47-43) @ Astros(30-62)
Pirates lead season series, 7-2
PIT Jeff Karstens (7-4, 2.55 ERA)
– Has won three straight decisions and has allowed 3 runs or less in 15 straight starts.
HOU Brett Myers (3-9, 4.88 ERA)
– Faced Pirates on July 4th, allowing 4 runs in 6 innings pitched. Has surrendered 9 earned runs in his last 10 1/3 innings.
— The Pirates enter the second half of the season with expectations of earning a playoff spot for the first time since 1992.
“There’s something different about us,” Andrew McCutchen said this week. “It’s more of knowing that we’re going to go out and have a good game and have the opportunity to win than just hoping that we win this year. That’s been the difference with us. Just being real positive and almost knowing in our head that we can go out and we’re going to win.”
The Pirates who are 7-2 on the season against the Astros, have gone a combined 18-6 against the NL Central Astros, Reds and Cubs this season.
Good thing for the Pirates is that they have 25 games remaining against Houston, Chicago and Cincinnati.
The Pirates have the 5th easiest schedule in the majors during the second half (.484) according to Elias but they embark on a tough stretch near the end of July, where we should find out whether they are going to be true contenders.
Starting the second half with a three game set with Houston this weekend and a 3-game home set with Cincinnati, the Pirates next 10 games are against St. Louis, Atlanta and Philadelphia, with 7 straight road games to close out July.
That’s a brutal stretch for the Pirates, which puts a strong emphasis on continuing to beat teams they should like they did in the first half.
Houston has lost 9 of 10 games.
NL Central Standings
1. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43)
2. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43)
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (47-43, 1GB)
4. Cincinnati Reds (45-47, 4 GB)
5. Chicago Cubs (37-55, 12 GB)
6. Houston Astros (30-62, 19 GB)
*Andrew McCutchen(.291 – 14 HR – 54 RBI) is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with 3 home runs, 14 RBI’s, 5 doubles, 1 triple and 7 runs scored in his last 10 games.
*Neil Walker (.264 – 8 HR – 59 RBI) comes into tonight with an 8 game hitting streak, hitting .438 during the streak.
Walker had a dominant game against the Cubs on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with an RBI, 2 doubles, triple and 2 runs scored.
Walker’s 59 RBI’s rank 7th in the National League.
*Alex Presley (.365 – 1 HR – 6 RBI) continues to make his mark, at least in the short-term at the MLB level.
He goes into the All-Star break on a four game hitting streak, batting .467 with 5 runs scored during that span.
Presley has multi-hit games in three straight and six of his last nine games.
Presley is batting .341 in his last 10 games, with 2 doubles, 2 triples and 7 runs scored.
*Astros star outfielder Hunter Pence Is 41 for 88 (.466) with 4 home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 23 games versus Pittsburgh.
1. Alex Presley, LF
2. Chase d’Arnaud, SS
3. Neil Walker, 2B
4. Andrew McCutchen, CF
5. Garrett Jones, RF
6. Lyle Overbay, 1B
7. Josh Harrison, 3B
8. Mike McKenry, C
9. Jeff Karstens, P
Notes: The team has activated reliever Joe Beimel……Jose Tabata (strain quad) suffered a minor setback and will not play tonight for Bradenton….