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News » Astros-Pirates Preview 2009-04-12

Astros-Pirates Preview 2009-04-12

Astros-Pirates Preview 2009-04-12
One day after delivering a double-digit run total, the Pittsburgh Pirates weren't able to do much at the plate.

Such a lack of offensive production is hardly unfamiliar to the Houston Astros.

The slumping Astros look to end a four-game losing streak when they face their NL Central rivals in the Pirates' home opener Monday.

Pittsburgh (3-3) scored 10 runs and had 12 hits in a win over Cincinnati on Saturday, but couldn't duplicate that performance in the series finale Sunday. The Pirates managed three hits against Reds ace Aaron Harang in a 2-0 loss, the first time they've been shut out in 2009.

The Pirates have totaled 23 runs and 40 hits in their three wins and four runs and nine hits in their three losses.

The Astros (1-5) didn't look much better at the plate Sunday than the Pirates did. They were also held to three hits in a 3-0 defeat at St. Louis, and had 24 consecutive batters retired after Kazuo Matsui hit an opposite-field single on the game's first pitch.

Houston was outscored 19-5 in getting swept in three games by the Cardinals, and it ranks 29th in the majors in runs with 16.

"We hit probably two or three balls hard all day, and that won't get it," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We know we're a better offensive team than we have shown."

Astros outfielder Carlos Lee and shortstop Miguel Tejada are each batting .227 (5-for-22), and first baseman Lance Berkman's hitting .200 (4-for-20).

"It's just annoying," infielder Geoff Blum said after going 0-for-3 on Sunday. "We shouldn't be losing games 3-0 with our lineup."

The Astros could have a hard time breaking out of their slump against Pirates left-hander Zach Duke, who held St. Louis to one earned run in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-4 win in his 2009 debut Wednesday.

"I just feel like I'm in control of what I'm doing this year," Duke told the Pirates' official Web site. "Every pitch that I'm about to throw, I feel like I know where it's going to go. My pitches are crisp. Whenever you feel like you're in command, it definitely helps the confidence out."

Duke is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five games - four starts - versus the Astros since the start of the 2007 season.

Houston, however, is 10-for-32 (.313) with four home runs and five strikeouts against lefties this season, compared to 40-for-168 (.238) with three homers and 31 strikeouts against right-handed pitching.

An improved lineup will only go so far for the Astros if Brian Moehler struggles again Monday. The veteran right-hander allowed seven runs in 1 2-3 innings of his season debut Wednesday, an 11-6 home loss to Chicago.

It wasn't the kind of first outing Cooper was looking for from a key starter in his rotation that's unheralded behind ace Roy Oswalt.

"We need him this year to be the anchor down there, to be that fourth or fifth guy for us," Cooper told the Astros' official Web site.

Moehler was 2-1 despite a 9.39 ERA in four starts against Pittsburgh last season.

Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, 3-for-22 (.136) with seven strikeouts in 2009, is 8-for-22 (.364) with one home run and three doubles lifetime against Moehler.

The Pirates and Astros split 16 games last season. Pittsburgh dropped six of the last seven meetings after winning seven of the first nine.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 13, 2009

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