Batting title is McCutchen’s to keep or lose


HOUSTON — Giants OF Melky Cabrera is out of the race for the NL batting title, which makes Andrew McCutchen the frontrunner. Andrew Baggerly of was the first to report that Cabrera, who is batting .346, worked out an agreement with MLB that will leave him one plate appearance shy of qualifying. Cabrera is serving a 50-game suspension for using PEDs. McCutchen is batting .339 and leads the majors with six four-hit games. He is just the fifth Pirates player to have at least six such games in a season. Behind McCutchen are Buster Posey (.335), Yadier Molina (.321) and Ryan Braun (.311).

»»» This, of course, will be the final weekend the Pirates play National League games in Houston. The Astros are moving to the American League West next season, and will play a three-game interleague set at PNC Park in 2013.

»»» Against the Astros this year, Garrett Jones is batting .404 (19 for 47), including four doubles, one triple and four homers. His 13 RBI are tied for third-most among all players against the Astros behind Jay Bruce (19) and Allen Craig (15).

UPDATES 5:40 p.m. CT: Neil Walker was scratched due to more stiffness in his creaky lower back. Manager Clint Hurdle suggested the flare-up was due to Walker being on his feet for the 4-hour game yesterday, than making the 3-hour plane trip to Texas. … Jared Hughes, Chris Resop and Jeff Karstens will NOT be available in the bullpen tonight.

Game 150: Pirates @ Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (74-75): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Clint  Barmes ss, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Brock Holt 2b, 9. Jeff Locke lhp (0-1, 5.49)

Astros (48-102): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Brandon Barnes cf, 3. Matt Dominguez 3b, 4. Justin Maxwell rf, 5. Jed Lowrie ss, 6. Brett Wallace 1b, 7. J.D. Martinez lf, 8. Chris Snyder c, 9. Edgar Gonzalez rhp (2-1, 4.40)