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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, September 23rd (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (74-77) at Houston Astros (50-102), 2:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (15-8, 3.64) Houston - Jordan Lyles (4-11, 5.40)

(Sports Network) - Right-hander A.J. Burnett tries to stop the freefall for the Pittsburgh Pirates today when they return to Minute Maid Park to close out a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Burnett was 15-4 on the season after a 10-6 defeat of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 16, but is since winless in six starts - losing four decisions - as part of the Pirates' precipitous second-half slide.

Burnett has given up 21 runs in 35 2/3 innings in his personal skid, which has yielded losses to St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati and Milwaukee as well as no-decisions against San Diego and Milwaukee.

He last faced the Astros on July 26 in Houston and scored a 5-3 win after allowing four hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings.

In 10 lifetime starts against Houston, he's 3-5 with a 5.01 earned run average in 59 1/3 innings.

On Saturday, Jason Castro smoked a tie-breaking three-run home run in the seventh inning, propelling the Astros to a 4-1 win.

Brett Wallace ripped an RBI single for the Astros, who have won back-to-back games on the heels of a three-game slide.

Dallas Keuchel (3-7) was solid on the mound, allowing one run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts to win his second consecutive start. Wilton Lopez notched his seventh save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.

"I'm not trying to be too fine and just letting everything work," Keuchel said. "I think I've gotten 10 times better from a mental strategy."

Gaby Sanchez launched a solo home run and Kevin Correia (11-10) yielded four runs - three earned - on seven hits with a walk and nine strikeouts for the Pirates, who fell to 4-16 in the month of September.

With the loss, the Pirates fell to three games under the .500 mark for the first time since May 25.

"We're just not finishing plays off," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "On offense, there wasn't a whole lot to try and develop."

The Pirates won 11 of the first 14 games between the teams in 2012, including two of three in a series from Sept. 3-5 in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won last year's series, 11-7.

Houston starts second-year righty Jordan Lyles, who'll make a fifth career appearance against the Pirates while searching for a first win.

The 21-year-old last faced them on Sept. 4 in Pittsburgh and dropped an 8-2 verdict after allowing five runs in seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

In four combined starts against the Pirates, Lyles is 0-3 with a 7.97 ERA in 20 1/3 innings - allowing 27 hits and 21 runs.

Lyles was a 1-0 winner over the Chicago Cubs two starts ago after tossing five scoreless innings, then got a no-decision in Houston's 7-6 win over Philadelphia in his last start on Sept. 16.

09/23 10:42:06 ET