The Pittsburgh Pirates have struggled at home all season, but lately, things have been changing for the better at PNC Park.
The Pirates will be looking to win a season-best fourth straight home series, opening a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds.
Pittsburgh’s play at home had been dreadful, going 0-9-1 in its first 10 series of the season at PNC Park.
The Pirates have since flourished in their home park, winning all three of their series there this month. They took two of three from the Colorado Rockies at PNC this past weekend.
The surge at home has been a significant confidence boost for Pittsburgh, which has won nine of 14 overall heading into a month-long stretch against NL Central opponents.
“I feel good about this team … we’ve got that mojo going and I think the players feel good about themselves,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’re pitching well and swinging the bats.”
Following this matchup with the Reds, the Pirates play two series against Houston around one with Milwaukee before the All-Star break. Even though they’re 7 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central, the Pirates realize the next two weeks may be their only opportunity to make the second half meaningful.
“No one has taken charge in this division,” shortstop Jack Wilson said. “If we don’t do well by the All-Star break, it will be tough to get back in there.”
Cincinnati is just 4 1/2 games back of first place in the division, but has dropped seven of nine after losing 3-1 at Cleveland on Sunday.
Adam Dunn hit his 23rd homer in the loss, but two more errors by the Reds doomed them in their third straight series defeat.
The Reds have the most errors in baseball—74 in 80 games. Sunday marked their 19th game with at least two errors.
Cincinnati fell to 2-7 on its 12-game trip, then held a players-only meeting.
“It wasn’t a chewing out,” Dunn said. “It was just a talk about what’s going on. There’s always a point in a season where a team scuffles.”
STANDINGS: Reds - 4th place, 4 1/2 GB, NL Central. Pirates - 5th place, 7 1/2 GB, NL Central.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Danny Graves (3-7, 4.93 ERA). The veteran right-hander lost Friday at Cleveland despite pitching well, allowing three runs—two earned—and six hits over seven innings in a 3-0 defeat. Graves, who recorded a save in his only relief appearance of the season last Tuesday, is 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA in his last seven starts. He has been solid against the Pirates, going 3-2 with a 1.72 ERA and 12 saves in 30 career appearances, only one of which was a start.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff D’Amico (5-8, 4.20 ERA). The big right-hander has dropped four of his last five starts, including last Tuesday’s 6-4 decision at Montreal in his latest outing. He allowed two unearned and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. D’Amico is 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA in five career games, including four starts, against the Reds.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Jose Guillen, .345 avg.; Dunn, 23 HRs and 51 runs; Austin Kearns, 57 RBIs; Aaron Boone, 11 SBs. Pirates - Brian Giles, .300 avg.; Reggie Sanders, 12 HRs; Aramis Ramirez, 47 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 51 runs and 14 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Pirates, 3-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - OF Kearns missed Sunday’s game and may sit out Monday due to a strained left quadriceps he suffered when running into the right-field wall to make a catch Saturday. He is day-to-day along with SS Ray Olmedo (flu), OF Guillen (hand) and C Jason LaRue (left shoulder). … OF Stephen Smitherman has been recalled from Double-A Chattanooga, where he batted .318 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs in 79 games. … The Reds are 23-28 in games in which they’ve committed an error. Pirates - OF Matt Stairs is 19-for-46 (.413) with six doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games since coming off the disabled list earlier this month. … Pittsburgh has won seven of 10 at home since losing 21 of its first 29. … 3B Ramirez’s only hit in his last 15 at-bats was a single, but he has four RBIs in his last three games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 17-23 on the road; Pirates - 15-24 at home.
INJURIES: Reds - INF Ryan Freel (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP John Riedling (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Gabe White (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL. Pirates - 1B Randall Simon (hand), 15-day DL; SS Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; 2B Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL; RHP Mike Lincoln (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL.