The Expos have become accustomed to playing doubleheaders on their 22-game stretch away from Montreal.
They’ll play their third makeup doubleheader of the trip when they meet the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
Tuesday’s series opener was rained out, and since the Expos visit Pittsburgh just once this season, a doubleheader was necessary. Montreal has already been swept in doubleheaders in both Philadelphia and Florida.
The Expos, who played six home games in Puerto Rico while away from Olympic Stadium, will return to Montreal on Friday for the first time since May 25.
Before they do that, however, they will look to get back on track by taking advantage of one of the NL’s worst teams. Montreal plays of six of its next nine games against the Pirates.
Montreal has lost four in a row following a season-best six-game win streak, which came after a season-worst five-game skid.
Putting together another streak of wins now seems possible as the Expos open a three-game set against a Pirates team that owns the third-worst record in the NL. These teams also open a three-game series at Olympic Stadium next Monday.
Montreal was swept in its three-game set at Oakland over the weekend, falling 9-1 on Sunday in the finale.
The Expos have totaled just nine runs during their four-game skid. They stranded a season-high 13 baserunners in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Athletics, then left six more on base Sunday as they failed to get one extra-base hit.
“Sometimes you have to come through in tough situations,” manager Frank Robinson said. “We’re not doing the job in clutch situations offensively.”
It has been a dismal June for the Pirates as they have gone 3-9 this month after closing May with wins in five of six. They are coming off back-to-back wins, but those came against one of the AL’s worst teams—Tampa Bay.
“That’s the most important thing—going back home with a positive,” said infielder Jack Wilson after Pittsburgh completed a 2-6 road trip. “Maybe since we’ve played well on the road, we can play good at home now.”
The Pirates are an NL-worst 9-21 at home, having yet to win a series at PNC Park this season.
STANDINGS: Expos - 2nd place, 6 1/2 GB, NL East. Pirates - 5th place, 10 GB, NL Central.
EXPOS GAME 1 PROBABLE STARTER: Livan Hernandez (6-4, 3.48 ERA). The Cuban right-hander has won two straight starts and was particularly effective Wednesday in beating Seattle, allowing a run and seven hits in seven innings of a 3-1 win. Hernandez has surrendered three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine outings. He is 2-1 with a 5.44 ERA in seven lifetime starts against Pittsburgh.
PIRATES GAME 1 PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff D’Amico (4-7, 4.63 ERA). D’Amico has lost his last three starts, allowing 17 runs and 21 hits—including six homers—over 18 innings. D’Amico has yielded at least five earned runs in every outing during that stretch after doing so only once in his first nine starts of the year. Maybe getting a look at the Expos can get him on track, considering he’s 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in three career starts against them.
EXPOS GAME 2 PROBABLE STARTER: Claudio Vargas (3-3, 3.17 ERA). Despite getting the loss, Vargas pitched well in his last start. Through six innings on Thursday, he allowed one run and four hits, but the Expos fell to the Seattle Mariners 1-0. Vargas has allowed one earned run or fewer in each of his last three starts. The 24-year-old right-hander has never faced the Pirates.
PIRATES GAME 2 PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff Suppan (5-6, 4.31 ERA). Suppan has allowed at least three earned runs in each of his past seven starts. In a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, he gave up five runs and seven hits through 6 1-3 innings. In his only previous game against the Expos, Suppan gave up three earned runs through six innings, but he did not get the decision.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Expos - Jose Vidro, .329 avg.; Orlando Cabrera, 10 HRs, 37 RBIs and 45 runs; Endy Chavez, 11 SBs. Pirates - Aramis Ramirez, .302 avg.; Reggie Sanders, 8 HRs; Randall Simon, 37 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 43 runs and 13 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: 3-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Expos - 3B Fernando Tatis is in a 2-for-31 slump (.065). … 1B-OF Wil Cordero is 2-for-19 (.105) lifetime against RHP D’Amico. … RHP Dan Smith has been tagged for 10 runs over 7 1-3 innings in five appearances this month. Pirates - 3B Ramirez has four hits in six career at-bats against RHP Hernandez. … Pittsburgh has given up 46 runs in its last six home games. … OF Matt Stairs is batting .471 (8-for-17) with two homers and three RBIs in six games since coming off the disabled list. He had missed nearly three weeks with a torn ligament in his right index finger.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Expos - 16-19 on the road; Pirates - 9-21 at home.
INJURIES: Expos - OF Vladimir Guerrero (back), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Zach Day (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL. Pirates - IF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; IF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL; RHP Mike Lincoln (shoulder), 60-day DL.