Jeff Francis, a 31-year-old former Rockies hero in his second go-around with the team, will oppose the Pirates' Jeff Karstens, who has spent each season since 2006 bouncing from the Majors to the Minor Leagues and back again.
Francis (2-2, 5.19 ERA) has become the closest thing to the ace of the Rockies pitching staff, as manager Jim Tracy has gone to a four-man rotation.
His last outing was a loss, but it was his first defeat in his last five starts. Francis allowed three runs on six hits, one walk and five strikeouts in five innings of a 4-1 loss to the Nationals on July 7.
Francis has tossed at least five innings in six of his seven starts on the season, which is pretty good considering there's a pitch count of approximately 75 for the Rockies' starters.
"I love playing for this team," said Francis, who went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 183 innings for the Royals last year. "They gave me a shot, and so far I've pitched well to take advantage of that. Hopefully, it sticks."
The 29-year-old Karstens is 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA in six starts for the Pirates, after starting the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.
He's won his last two starts, however, and his last outing was outstanding, as Karstens worked eight scoreless innings and allowed just four hits in a 4-0 victory over the Astros on July 5.
The Astros did not have more than one runner on base in any inning and had just three runners reach second.
"It was just location, command, changing speeds, staying out of the middle of the plate, and keeping the hitters just off-balance enough where they weren't able to square him up," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You come back shaking your head. You can't wait to hit until the next time, and at the end of the night, you don't have much to show for it. Very efficient outing."
Karstens' teammate, right fielder Garrett Jones, was equally impressed.
"He was like a machine out there, getting strike one right away," Jones said. "Nobody was really squaring the ball up. He pitched a heck of a game."
Pirates: McCutchen stays hot
The Pirates lost to the Brewers, 4-1, on Sunday to temporarily fall out of first place in the National League East, a half-game behind Cincinnati pending the outcome of the Reds' Sunday night game against the Cardinals. But All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen continues on a torrid hot streak.
McCiutchen had three hits in four at-bats, including his 21st home run of the season and fifth in the past four games.
McCutchen leads the Majors with a .371 batting average and is batting .560 (28-for-50) with seven homers, 19 runs scored and 16 RBIs in the past 12 games.
Rockies: Gonzalez also hot
Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez had a triple in four at-bats on Sunday and has hit safely in 24 of 28 games since June 8. He's hitting .332 for the season.
The Rockies, who are in last place in the National League West, lost to the Phillies, 5-1, on Sunday and missed a chance to win their fist series since early June.
The Rockies are 1-2 against the Pirates this year, but none of the Rockies pitchers who started in those three games are currently active. Jamie Moyer has been released and Juan Nicasio and Jhoulys Chacin are on the disabled list.