On July 25, 2011, the Pirates were 53-47 and tied for the lead in the National League Central.
In a 19-inning game with the Braves one day later at Turner Field, Atlanta's Julio Lugo was called safe at home -- 16 innings after either team had last scored. Pirates catcher Michael McKenry had clearly, on replay, made the tag on Lugo's right leg. That didn't matter. Umpire Jerry Meals did not reverse his call, Atlanta won, 4-3, and the Pirates were livid.
Pittsburgh went 19-42 from that point and finished fourth in the division.
The Pirates, in second place this year, just started a stretch of 13 games against Central opponents, losing two of three to the Cubs. The Pirates took Wednesday's finale, 3-2, but still, their offense -- so productive in June -- seems to have quieted.
Bad calls at the plate or not, the Bucs need to alter their course from last year.
"We didn't hit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Wednesday's win. "But to make any more of it than that? We deal with the reality of the situation, and then we move forward."
The Pirates see the Cubs again next week, but first kick off a road trip with four games against the Astros -- and with their new arm, Wandy Rodriguez. The former Astros lefty, whom Pittsburgh acquired Tuesday, won't be added to the Pirates' roster until Thursday.
With the Cubs in fifth place and the Astros carrying the worst record in baseball, the Pirates are going through a ripe part of the schedule.
A.J. Burnett, who leads the club with 11 wins, is the scheduled starter in a 7:05 p.m. CT game at Minute Maid Park, with lefty Dallas Keuchel going for Houston.
The Astros have dropped nine in a row and 12 of 13 since the All-Star break, with newly acquired closer Francisco Cordero blowing a save and taking the loss on consecutive nights against the Reds.
Pirates: Barajas to help plan Wandy's starts
Rodriguez is most comfortable speaking in Spanish, but that won't prevent McKenry from being behind the plate. Rod Barajas, who is bilingual, will be present for game-planning sessions to ensure everything is seamless.
Hurdle spoke to Rodriguez on Tuesday, the night Pittsburgh traded for him.
"It was good to hear his voice," Hurdle said. "I told him I've been trying to figure ways to beat him since he got in the league, so it's nice to join forces."
Outfielder Starling Marte, Pittsburgh's No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, is being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to join the team for Thursday's game. Right-handed reliever Evan Meek will be optioned back to Indianapolis to clear roster space for Marte, 23, who is hitting .286 with an .848 OPS, 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases this season.
Astros: Martinez treating right shoulder
Left fielder J.D. Martinez had one at-bat apiece Monday and Tuesday but was out of the starting lineup for three straight games before returning on Wednesday.
Martinez was hurt crashing into the wall at Chase Field in Arizona, but his offense didn't suffer on Wednesday, when he went 2-for-4 with an RBI double, on which he raced around the bases to score on a pair of errors.
The Astros filled Rodriguez's roster spot when they called up left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Cedeno has a 2.89 ERA in 12 big league appearances this season but gave up a hit to the only batter he faced in his return.
The Astros handed Burnett his second-highest run total of the season on July 3 in Pittsburgh, scoring six times on 12 hits in five innings.
In an effort to enhance the fan experience at Minute Maid Park, the Astros have added a new Twitter handle. @astrosassist is now live for fans to utilize for questions or problems they may have at the ballpark.