Houston's trip to Pittsburgh for a three-game series this weekend likely felt very familiar, as the two teams were NL Central foes just last year. For the Astros' Saturday starter, though, it's familiar for different reasons.
Erik Bedard started 24 games for the Pirates last season, going 7-14 with a 5.01 ERA. After being released in August, the 34-year-old left-hander signed with the Astros in January. On Saturday, he'll take on his former team for the first time.
In and out of the rotation with Houston, Bedard is set to make his seventh start of the season. It will be his second in a row after coming on in relief against the Tigers on May 5.
Bedard allowed two runs on four hits and was in line for the win against Texas when he was pulled in the sixth inning last Saturday. However, the bullpen failed to hold the lead, leaving Bedard without a win as an Astro.
"Bedard was tremendous and did a great job," manager Bo Porter said. "I thought in the fifth, when he stepped back and bowed his neck and willed us through that inning with big pitch after big pitch, he was outstanding tonight."
That start came in Houston, where Bedard has been steady this season. It's the outings away from home that have been a problem, as he carries an 11.91 road ERA into Pittsburgh's PNC Park, where he'll square off against former teammate A.J. Burnett.
Since losing his first two starts of the season, Burnett has gone 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA. Although the 35-year-old righty enters Saturday on his second two-game losing streak of the year, he's been strong, throwing seven innings in each of his last three outings.
The most recent loss came against the Brewers on Monday, and Burnett left the game frustrated after Milwaukee picked up three infield hits. Burnett said afterward that he wouldn't let it get to him.
"I've gotten good at turning the page quickly, not letting things escalate," Burnett said.
Astros: Altuve returns after "whirlwind" few days
Jose Altuve will be back in the lineup on Saturday after enduring a difficult week.
On Monday, Altuve collided with right fielder Jimmy Paredes trying to catch a fly ball and left the game with a partially dislocated right jaw. Then the 23-year-old second baseman was placed on the bereavement list so he could fly home to Venezuela for his grandmother's funeral.
"It's obviously been quite a whirlwind for him the last few days," Porter said. "Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to him. ... I'm sure he's looking forward to getting around his teammates and getting back on the baseball field."
Saturday marks Altuve's first game back, and he said Monday that his jaw was fine. In 38 games entering Saturday, Altuve is batting .333 with 18 RBIs.
• The biggest news out of Houston on Friday was the team introducing Reid Ryan as its new president of business operations. Ryan, who is the eldest son of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, successfully ran two Minor League teams before the Astros brought him aboard.
Pirates: Hurdle likes Pirates' mentality
The Pirates find themselves in a division with three of the four best teams in the NL so far this season, but manager Clint Hurdle isn't worried. A quarter of the way through his third season in Pittsburgh, Hurdle has said this Pirates team is his deepest.
Perhaps more importantly, his players appear to have put winning ahead of any personal agendas.
"There's always a challenge that you give everybody to keep them motivated, keep them hungry and to keep them focused," Hurdle said. "Everybody will tell you they're all in, until that lineup gets posted from time to time and they don't happen to be in it. And that's one of the things I think we've worked through very professionally here. They understand the big picture, and the good teams that go on to play late, you hear it every year: 'It took all of us.'"
• With three hits on Friday, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen enters Saturday's game with the most hits (31) by an NL player in Interleague Play since the start of last season.
• Houston heads into Saturday with a 2-9 record at PNC Park in the last two seasons.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.