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PHI@HOU: Keuchel pitches 5 1/3 scoreless innings

It's officially that time for the Pirates.

If Pittsburgh hopes to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, the Pirates can't exactly afford any more losses. Their losing streak hit four after a loss to the Astros on Friday, and if they want to stay in the race, the Bucs will need to bounce back on Saturday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

In a must-win game, manager Clint Hurdle will send right-hander Kevin Correia to the mound. Correia will look to spark a comeback by Pittsburgh after making his own comeback earlier this season.

After Wandy Rodriguez took Correia's spot in the rotation in July, the 32-year-old right-hander came back and started again in a win over the D-backs on Aug. 8. He's split his last six starts, including a two-hit, seven-inning shutout on Monday against the Cubs.

"You could argue this is the best game he's pitched all year," Hurdle said after the 3-0 win. "A lot of soft contact, weren't a lot of balls hit hard."

Correia last took the hill against the Astros on Sept. 5, when he gave up just one run on four hits in six innings on the way to a 6-3 win. On Saturday, he'll look for his second straight win over Houston and his 12th win of the season.

Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco does not expect to face a defeated Pirates team this weekend, despite the fact their playoff hopes keep fading away.

"They're not going to quit," DeFrancesco said. "They've got a goal to finish over .500, and hopefully we're here to stop them and give us a chance to finish the month of September over .500."

The Pirates enter Saturday at 74-76 on the season, while the Astros (49-102) are 9-10 this month.

Although Houston hasn't been a contender this season, DeFrancesco said these late games against teams with something to play for is a good experience for his players, many of whom are getting their first taste of the big leagues.

"They're all learning at the Major League level," DeFrancesco said. "It's a great opportunity for a young team like this to go out there and see Major League pitching."

Astros: Keuchel looks for second straight win
• After almost three months and 12 starts, Dallas Keuchel finally earned his second career win in his last start on Saturday.

In his last start, Keuchel tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings while inducing a plethora of ground balls. If he has success on Saturday, he'll likely follow a similar formula.

"That's his game," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "Keuchel is a sinkerball pitcher. Over the plate and down on the outer half. If he does that, he's going to have success."

Pirates: McCutchen now pursuing batting crown
• When Melky Cabrera took himself out of the running for the National League batting title, Andrew McCutchen became one of the favorites to earn the honor.

Heading into Saturday's game with the Astros, McCutchen was batting .338 to lead the National League. Although McCutchen now has the batting crown within his reach, manager Clint Hurdle doesn't expect anything to be any different.

"It's not going to change Andrew's game," Hurdle said. "He's been focused -- in routine, preparation -- from Day 1."

McCutchen has 30 homers and 92 RBIs to go with his high average, and he said he admired Cabrera's initiative.

"It's good that he did what he did, and we move on from there," McCutchen said.

Worth noting
• With a win on Saturday, the Pirates would have the most wins (12) they've had in a season against Houston since 1968 (13-5).

• The Astros are just 2-8 against the Pirates on the road. However, Houston has the same amount of wins against Pittsburgh at Minute Maid Park in half as many tries (2-3).

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