(Sports Network) - Breakout right-hander James McDonald can continue a
stellar first half of 2012 tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the
Houston Astros in game one of a four-game set at PNC Park.
The 27-year-old Californian, who won a career-high nine games in 31 starts for
the Pirates in 2011, moved within two wins of the personal-best number when he
tossed 5 2/3 innings in an 11-7 defeat of Philadelphia on June 27.
The win was his second in a row and fifth in six decisions since mid-May, when
he improved to 3-2 on the season with a 5-3 triumph at Washington on May 17.
Defeats of Cincinnati and Milwaukee followed and the stretch was only
interrupted by a tough-luck 2-0 loss at Cleveland on June 15, in which
McDonald allowed only a run on three hits in six innings.
He's been particularly effective at home, going 3-1 in eight starts while
posting a stingy 1.63 earned run average in 55 1/3 innings.
The only loss in Pittsburgh was against the Astros, who beat him, 1-0, after
he allowed a run on four hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings.
Tonight, he'll be opposed by 21-year-old Houston righty Jordan Lyles, who
makes the 10th start of his second big-league season.
The North Carolina native was 2-8 in 20 appearances as a rookie last year,
posting a 5.36 ERA across 94 innings - including a 5-4 loss against the
Pirates in Houston on June 16.
It's his lone career meeting with Pittsburgh.
Lyles was a 5-3 winner over San Diego in his last start on June 26, but is 0-2
in five road starts so far this season.
On Sunday in Chicago, Travis Wood pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the Cubs
finished off a three-game sweep, beating the Astros by a 3-0 count at Wrigley
Wandy Rodriguez (6-6) was a hard-luck loser for the Astros, allowing three
runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out three and walked just one
but Houston dropped its fourth straight overall.
J.D. Martinez and Carlos Lee were the only Astros to reach second base.
Martinez hit a leadoff double to start the fifth, but he was stranded after
Matt Downs, Brian Bogusevic and Brian Bixler failed to score him. Lee failed
to score after delivering a two-out double in the ninth.
In St. Louis, Allen Craig hit a two-run homer and Yadier Molina added a solo
shot as the Cardinals edged the Pirates, 5-4, to avoid a three-game series
Erik Bedard (4-9) gave up five runs on eight hits and two walks over 4 2/3
innings to take the loss for Pittsburgh, which saw its four-game win streak
come to an end.
Michael McKenry had a three-run home run in a losing effort.
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 season
series in 2010, taking 11 of 15 games.
The Sports Network