Veteran righty A.J. Burnett can reach double-digit wins for the 10th time in his career when the Pittsburgh Pirates continue a four-game series against the Houston Astros tonight at PNC Park.
Burnett, in his first season with the Pirates after three mediocre years with the New York Yankees, got to 9-2 by winning his eighth straight start on June 28, scattering six hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 5-4 triumph at Philadelphia.
The 35-year-old Burnett won 13, 10 and 11 games in three seasons with the Yankees before coming to Pittsburgh in an offseason trade which New York agreed to pay a sizable portion of his salary.
Burnett was just 1-2 with a 5.12 earned run average through his initial five starts with his new team, but began the streak with six innings of two-run ball in a 4-3 interleague win at Detroit on May 19.
He's since beaten the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati (twice), Kansas City, Cleveland, Detroit and the Phillies while lowering his ERA to 3.31 and pitching at least six innings five times.
Burnett is 5-0 in seven home starts this season, but just 2-5 in eight career meetings with the Astros.
The Pirates broke out on top of the series and remained just a game off the pace for the National League Central Division lead on Monday, when Garrett Jones and Neil Walker combined for seven RBI and hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning in an 11-2 rout.
Pittsburgh is a game behind the Reds, who defeated Los Angeles to maintain their advantage.
Jones had four hits and knocked in four runs, while Walker ended with three RBI. Andrew McCutchen, who was named the NL's top player for June, went 4- for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored as the Pirates won for the fifth time in six games.
Casey McGehee ended 3-for-5 with two runs driven in an 18-hit attack for the Pirates.
James McDonald (8-3) was stellar on the mound, allowing four hits and a pair of runs over seven innings.
Scott Moore homered for Houston, which lost its fifth in a row overall and seventh straight on the road.
Jordan Lyles (2-5) surrendered nine hits and seven runs, while fanning six over four-plus innings. The 21-year-old right-hander has yet to win on the road (0-7) in his major league career in 16 games (14 starts).
"I threw pitches I wanted to throw. They were just the better team tonight," Lyles said.
Houston sends 27-year-old righty Lucas Harrell to the mound for his first career meeting against the Pirates.
Harrell was a fourth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox and made 11 appearances with his initial team before heading to Houston after the beginning of the 2011 season.
He was 0-2 in six games with the Astros in 2011 and inched above .500 in his most recent start this season, getting to 7-6 with a complete-game blanking of San Diego on June 27.
In that game, the first complete game of Harrell's career, he allowed six hits, walked four and struck out seven for a 1-0 victory.
He is 2-5 in nine road starts this season.
The Pirates won two of three from the Astros in a May series at PNC Park and 11 of 18 games between the teams last season. Houston last won the series in 2010, taking 11 of 15 games.