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Astros welcome Pirates to Minute Maid Park

The Houston Astros have had their fair share of problems against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. That especially holds true for starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Astros will try to get their three-game series with the Pirates at Minute Maid Park off to a winning start tonight, when Rodriguez hopes to avoid a second straight subpar outing.

The left-hander pitched a gem versus the Giants on Aug. 19 that featured eight scoreless innings of five-hit ball, but was then banged around for six runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits, two homers and four walks in six innings of a no- decision versus the Rockies on Wednesday.

It was the first time in seven outings that Rodriguez did not log a decision and first since July 17 versus the Pirates. He gave up four runs over 5 2/3 innings on that day and has a 5.30 earned run average in three starts against them this year.

The 32-year-old is 7-5 with a 4.23 ERA in 16 career starts versus Pittsburgh and is 9-9 with a 3.41 ERA overall this season. He'll try to find a way to contain both Neil Walker and Brandon Wood, with the Pirates duo combining to go 10-for-16 off him this year with two homers and five RBI.

Houston has lost nine of 12 to Pittsburgh this year, including five of six at home, and returns to Minute Maid Park following a 2-5 road trip. The Astros did end the swing on a positive note, knocking off the Giants, 4-3, in 11 innings on Sunday.

Mark Melancon blew a save chance in the 10th inning, but Matt Downs took him off the hook by driving in the winning run in the next frame. Rookie David Carpenter then retired three straight after hitting the leadoff batter with a pitch to secure his first career save.

Carlos Lee had three hits in the game, but had to exit early after twisting his ankle in the ninth inning on a slide into second base. He wasn't the only Houston player to run into some bad luck as starter Bud Norris did not get a decision despite striking out 10 batters over seven innings of three-hit ball.

"[Norris] didn't want to come out of the game. That's how good he was throwing," said Houston manager Brad Mills.

The Pirates did not receive a similar effort from their starter on Sunday, with Jeff Karstens yielding five runs over 3 2/3 innings of a 7-4 setback to the Cardinals. The defeat was Pittsburgh's sixth in nine games.

"My body isn't telling me [fatigue] is a problem. It's just one of those things if you're going through it, you have to grind through it and see what happens," Karstens said after failing to hold an early 4-3 lead.

The Pirates will look for better results from Ross Ohlendorf this evening than what he turned in on Tuesday in what was his first start in nearly five months.

Making his first appearance in the majors since April 8 because of a shoulder injury, Ohlendorf was tagged for seven runs -- four earned -- on 11 hits over five innings of a loss to the Brewers. All seven runs scored off the righty came in the second inning.

Ohlendorf pitched to a 3.65 ERA over his seven minor league starts this year, but has a 7.24 ERA in three starts this year with the Pirates and has won just once since Aug. 19, 2009.

"Obviously he was more efficient in his minor league starts," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But you're talking about minor league starts versus major league starts."

The 29-year-old Ohlendorf will also be looking to defeat the Astros for the first time in his career. He went 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in three outings against them last year and is 0-6 with a 6.17 ERA in 10 all-time meetings.