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Astros Begin Second Half With New Lineup, Another Loss As Pirates Win 4-0

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Brad Mills must honestly be running out of ideas.

He shook up the lineup before tonight's game by moving Matt Downs into the two hole, followed by Jeff Keppinger and then Hunter Pence in the cleanup spot. Pence deserves to be batting fourth by now as he certainly has played well enough to earn it. On the other hand, while I don't personally like Keppinger batting third, there's really no harm in Mills trying to mix things up at this point in the season.

You can attribute the lack of offense to Mills' changes if you want, but I think you have to give credit to Pittsburgh's starter Jeff Karstens. He continued his season-long dominance of the Astros by throwing a complete game shutout, and his numbers against Houston this year (3-0, 0.41 ERA in three starts) are pretty remarkable. Karstens doesn't throw very hard, but he relies on exceptional command and hasn't walked a single batter in his last 16 innings of work.

Although such praise cannot be said about Brett Myers' control, the Astros' right-hander pitched a nice ballgame. He allowed three runs through six innings for his tenth quality start, but the silver lining was his season-high 11 strikeouts. His starts as an Astro could be numbered, and Myers' performance tonight had to impress any scouts in attendance.

Well, I can't say that I was entirely surprised by this evening's outcome. Pittsburgh is turning into a legitimate NL Central contender, and the Astros just have to stand by and watch.