Locke eyes a win in rubber match against Astros

Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke eyes his fourth consecutive winning decision on Sunday when the Pirates close out a three-game series with the Houston Astros at PNC Park.

Locke has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates, posting a 3-1 mark with a 3.15 ERA in eight starts. However, he has not received a decision in his last three starts, despite not allowing more than three earned runs in any of the outings.

The 25-year-old left-hander did not factor in the decision of Pittsburgh's 4-3 win on Tuesday, as he allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings. He also struck out six and walked a batter.

Locke has lost both of his starts to the Astros and has pitched to a 7.20 ERA in doing so.

Houston, meanwhile, will counter with righty Lucas Harrell, who is 3-4 with a 5.11 ERA. Harrell lost to Detroit on Tuesday, as the Tigers reached him for five runs and seven hits in five innings.

"I felt great today," Harrell said. "I felt like I threw the ball really well. Things just didn't go my way."

Harrell is 1-0 in two starts versus the Pirates with a 5.91 ERA.

Houston evened this series at a game apiece on Saturday, as Matt Dominguez and J.D. Martinez drove in the deciding runs in the top of the 11th inning to lift the Astros past the Pirates, 4-2.

Jose Altuve and Chris Carter each drove in one run for the Astros, who won for only the second time in their last nine tries. Jose Cisnero (1-0) earned the win after tossing 3 2/3 shutout innings of relief, while Jose Veras picked up his sixth save of the season with a perfect bottom of the 11th.

Mark Melancon blew a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead in the eighth, allowing Carter to tie the game with an RBI single. Bryan Morris (1-2) absorbed the loss after allowing both runs in the 11th as the Pirates had a four-game win streak stopped.

"We don't take anybody lightly," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "This goes to show you. There's guys in this clubhouse who are disappointed we didn't win tonight."

Pittsburgh beat the Astros 12 of the 17 times the teams met a year ago.