Houston will need a victory to prevent a club-record-tying 11-game losing streak against a Pirates team that's 7-1 against the Astros this season. The last time the Astros lost 11 consecutive games was Aug. 17-28, 1995. They hadn't dropped 10 in a row since May 20-30, 2007.
Houston swept a three-game series when Pittsburgh last visited Minute Maid Park last season. The Astros held a 68-28 record at home against the Pirates entering Thursday. Despite their best mark against any National League team at home, the Astros still fell to the Pirates in the series opener, 5-3.
"We need to have those better at-bats and try to move forward," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Later on in the game, we started doing that. We would've liked to seen that earlier in the game, because, like I said, we knew exactly what we were getting into."
The Astros are 1-12 since the All-Star break and will start Jordan Lyles, who allowed eight runs and 10 hits in his last start at Arizona. He's 0-5 on the road, but owns a 2-2 record and 3.62 ERA in five home starts.
Meanwhile, the Pirates have won 14 of their last 20 games and have gone 18-7 in their last 25. Lyles will face a pitcher in Jeff Karstens who's had no problem against the Astros, especially at Minute Maid Park.
Karstens already tossed eight scoreless innings in a 2-0 shutout at home against the Astros on July 5. He went 3-0 against the Astros last year and didn't allow a run in his two starts at Minute Maid Park.
Pirates: Correia, winner of six straight, joins bullpen
The addition of pitcher Wandy Rodriguez will move Kevin Correia, who has won his last six decisions, to the bullpen.
"He was disappointed, without doubt," said manager Clint Hurdle. "First time in his career he wins six straight, and is moved to the 'pen? I had to wrestle with that one. It's one of the hardest decisions we've had to make."
The Pirates recalled Starling Marte from Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday, and the outfielder became the 13th player since 2000 to hit a home run on the first Major League pitch he saw.
Astros: Norris, Wright most veteran Astros
With the Pirates acquiring Rodriguez, the last remaining Astros player who participated in the 2005 World Series, pitchers Bud Norris and Wesley Wright became the longest-tenured Astros. Wright made his debut in March 2008, while Norris debuted in July 2009.
"It's surreal, almost," Norris said. "I've only been here three years and I've seen a lot in three years. It's tough to see Wandy go because he's been an anchor for us since the World Series. We learned a lot from him and what he taught us, and I'm just trying to pass what I know to these guys and they're trying to help me, too."
Astros catcher Jason Castro said Thursday that if the rehab on his right knee continues to progress, he could return to the lineup in about a week. He's been out since July 8.
Rodriguez, who stayed in Houston after being traded to the Pirates, will pitch Saturday against his former club. He called it a hard situation, and said he doesn't know how he'll feel when he takes the mound. Mills has an idea.
"I'm sure his emotions are going to be pretty high, as are ours as well going against him," Mills said.