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07/07/10 12:23 AM ET

McCutchen to make rotation pitch vs. Astros

Daniel McCutchen knows Wednesday's start against the Astros could be his last for quite some time. And with Zach Duke set to return from the 15-day disabled list after the All-Star break, McCutchen plans to do everything in his power to stay up with the Pirates.

If he pitches anything like he did last game against the Phillies, he very well may have a shot. In that start where he bested Cole Hamels, McCutchen gave up just one run in 5 1/3 innings for his first win of the year.

"I've been feeling good, and in [Triple-A] Indy pitching, I just tried to do the same thing," McCutchen said. "I tried to stay ahead in the count and be able to use my offspeed [pitches], and it worked for me."

The Astros will counter with starter Brian Moehler who has found his comfort zone as a starter after spending much of the year as a long reliever. In his last start against the Padres, Moehler gave up just one run over 5 2/3 innings. He was in line for the win before the bullpen blew the game and forced the Astros to go into extra innings, where they would eventually win.

"I threw the ball in and out tonight," Moehler said after his start. "I feel like location was pretty good, and we made some defensive plays when we needed them."

Pirates: Duke making strides
Duke made his first rehab start Sunday with Double-A Altoona. He gave up one run over three innings while throwing a total of 29 pitches against Binghamton. Duke has been on the 15-day DL since June 17 with a left elbow flexor pronator strain. He will make his next rehab start for Altoona on Saturday, when he will pitch five innings. Duke is 3-8 with a 5.48 ERA on the season.

Astros: Houston hoping to rebound in second half
Wednesday's game against the Pirates is the Astros' second in a string of 27 consecutive in a row against divisional foes. Houston is 16-12 against the NL Central, which is the second-best record within the division. With Interleague Play out of the way and so many division games coming up, Astros first baseman Lance Berkman sees his team picking up the pace. "It's been tough," Berkman said. "I think we're going to be better going forward. I don't think we're going to continue on this 100-loss pace that everybody is making a bid deal about."

Worth noting
The Pirates began a stretch Tuesday of 13 consecutive games against the Astros and the Brewers. ... The Astros improved their record against the Pirates to 59-23 all time at Minute Maid Park. ... The Pirates entered their series against the Astros having won back-to-back series for the first time all year.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.