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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, July 26th (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (55-42) at Houston Astros (34-65), 8:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (11-3, 3.59) Houston - Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 4.03)

(Sports Network) - Streaking veteran A.J. Burnett can continue a surprise career resurgence tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates visit the Houston Astros in the opener of a four-game series at Minute Maid Park.

A 35-year-old Arkansas native, Burnett languished for three seasons with the New York Yankees as a big-money flop before an offseason deal sent him to the Pirates with cash in exchange for a pair of minor-leaguers in February.

The Yankees agreed to pay $20 million of the $33 million is due over the final two seasons of the contract.

He began the season with just one win in his initial five starts with his new team but has caught fire since, winning 10 of 11 decisions across 12 starts while lowering his earned run average from a season-high 8.04 in May to 3.59 after his last outing.

In that start, a 5-1 win against Miami on July 21, he allowed a run on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings, marking the third time this season he's pitched that deep into a ball game and helping him reach 11 wins for the second straight year and seventh time since debuting in 1999.

He won a career-high 18 games with Toronto in 2008.

In nine lifetime starts against the Astros, including a no-decision in Pittsburgh on May 13, he's 2-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 52 innings.

Houston starts rookie lefty Dallas Keuchel, who turned 11 years old in the year Burnett reached the big leagues.

Now 24, Keuchel made his own debut on June 17 against Texas, then registered his first win six days later with a complete-game gem against Cleveland in which he allowed a run on six hits with three strikeouts in an 8-1 win.

He's 0-2 in three starts since, including a 12-3 rout at Arizona in his last outing on July 21, when he was ripped for seven runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

Keuchel, who won 10 games in the minors last season and was 6-4 in 15 starts this year at Triple-A, has held major-league hitters to a .257 batting average in 29 innings.

On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Garrett Jones' RBI double in the sixth inning proved to be the difference as the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, to avoid a three-game sweep.

Michael McKenry and Neil Walker added solo homers for the Pirates, who went 4-2 on a six-game homestand.

Kevin Correia (8-6) gave up two runs on four hits over six innings to win his sixth straight decision. He struck out four and walked two.

In Houston, Drew Stubbs knocked in a pair of runs in the ninth inning to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a comeback victory as they downed the Astros, 5-3, to complete a three-game sweep.

Cincinnati led 2-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but Logan Ondrusek was touched for three runs to give the Astros a one-run lead.

The Reds battled back in the top of the ninth off Francisco Cordero (0-2) as Xavier Paul led off the frame with a pinch-hit double. Brandon Phillips came on as a pinch-hitter and worked a one-out walk two batters later.

After Zack Cozart fanned, Stubbs launched a double off the wall in center field to plate Paul and Phillips and give the Reds a one-run lead.

Fernando Abad entered for Cordero and Jay Bruce greeted him with a single into right to score Stubbs for a two-run cushion.

The Pirates lost the first 2012 meeting between the teams on May 11, but have since won six straight - all in Pittsburgh. They won five of nine games in Houston last year while taking the season series, 11-7.

07/26 10:22:04 ET