(Sports Network) - Struggling to gain ground in the playoff race, a visit from
the Houston Astros couldn't come at a better time for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With Jeff Locke set to make his first start of the season, the Pirates hope to
get right on Monday afternoon in the first of three straight against the last-
Pittsburgh welcomes Houston to PNC Park after getting swept in three games by
another NL Central rival, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Pirates dropped a 12-8
decision on Sunday despite homers from Michael McKenry, Gaby Sanchez and
That's because starter James McDonald had a rough outing, yielding eight runs
-- seven earned -- on six hits, four homers and a walk over 2 2/3 innings.
The Pirates lost for the ninth time in 12 games, but are still 1 1/2 games out
of the second wild card spot.
Pittsburgh hopes that Locke can carry over a successful season at Triple-A
into the majors in his first career outing against the Astros. The 24-year-old
went 10-5 with a 2.48 earned run average with Indianapolis this year, going
3-0 with a 0.58 ERA in his last five outings.
After going 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA in four starts with the Pirates last season,
Locke made two relief appearances earlier this season with Pittsburgh and gave
up just one hit over 4 1/3 innings.
"He's made a lot of progress," manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke on
Pittsburgh's website. "His ability to locate, to mix speeds, the command --
all of it. The next step is to check it out here."
Locke is taking the rotation spot of the released Erik Bedard and hopes to
stick in the starting five. A good outing against Houston would do that and he
faces an Astros club that has lost seven of eight and 14 of its last 16.
Houston, 40 1/2 games out of first place, failed to hold a three-run lead on
Sunday versus the Cincinnati Reds, giving up five runs in the eighth to suffer
a 5-3 setback.
"They put together some good at-bats and got some big hits and were just able
to pull ahead," said the Astros' Tyler Greene, who hit a solo homer as one of
his two hits.
Edgar Gonzalez is slated to make his season debut for the Astros today in what
will be his first start since Sept. 27, 2009 while with the Oakland Athletics.
The 29-year-old righty went 6-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 23 games (15 starts) this
season across three different Triple-A clubs. He made just one appearance in
the majors last season, a relief outing with the Colorado Rockies.
A veteran of 107 MLB games and 41 starts, Gonzalez is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in
three lifetime meetings with the Pirates, including one start.
The Pirates have won nine of 11 versus the Astros this season, including six
of seven at home.
The Sports Network