Scouting Report: Houston Astros: 4/2/07

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Opponent: Houston Astros (82-80 last season).

Site: Minute Maid Park, Houston.

Times: 7:05 p.m. today, 8:05 p.m. tomorrow and Wednesday.

TV, radio: All games on FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7) and Pirates Radio Network.

Starting matchups: LHP Zach Duke (10-15, 4.47 ERA last season) vs. RHP Roy Oswalt (15-8, 2.98), RHP Ian Snell (14-11, 4.74) vs. RHP Jason Jennings (9-13, 3.78), LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2-5, 3.79) vs. RHP Woody Williams (12-5, 3.65).

Season series: First meeting. Houston won last year, 13-3.

Three things about the Astros: 1. No Roger Clemens, no Andy Pettitte, no hope, right? Maybe not. New cleanup man Carlos Lee will drive in 100-plus runs and protect Lance Berkman, which should make up for a lot of those additional runs allowed. 2. Oswalt, making his fifth consecutive opening-day start, won all three meetings against the Pirates last season with a 0.90 ERA, and he is 18-10 with a 2.76 ERA against them for his career. 3. Leadoff man Craig Biggio has fun against the Pirates, too: .333 with 14 runs and four home runs last season.

The Pirates' key to success: Get Chris Duffy going. But that might not be easy: Duffy bats .119 -- 5 for 42 -- against the Astros, his lowest average against any opponent.

The intangible: The ballpark factor cannot be overstated. The Pirates are 11-42 at Minute Maid, 0-6 last season.

On deck: Three in Cincinnati before coming home.



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