Facing an annual doormat like the Pittsburgh Pirates would seem to be a good way for a World Series MVP to come off the disabled list.
These aren’t the Pirates most pitchers are used to facing.
Beckett will make his first start since June 17 and just his second since May against a Pirates team which has suddenly reeled off nine consecutive victories. It’s the longest win streak for Pittsburgh, a sub-.500 team each of the last 11 years, since an 11-game run from Sept. 12-22, 1996.
To keep this streak going, the Pirates must prevent Beckett from getting his first victory since May 20.
The hero of Florida’s triumph over the New York Yankees in the World Series left his start June 18 against the Chicago White Sox after just 3 2-3 innings due to a strained back muscle. It had been his first appearance following his first stint on the 15-day disabled list due to a finger blister.
Beckett’s back has felt much better in recent days, allowing him to throw consecutive pain-free bullpen sessions.
“I’m jacked up,” said Beckett, who last season tossed 7 2-3 scoreless innings in winning his only career start against the Pirates.
Pittsburgh’s offense, though, beat up on Milwaukee pitching in its most recent series en route to a four-game sweep. The Pirates put up 32 runs and 40 hits, including seven homers.
The big difference lately for Pittsburgh, though, has been starting pitching. Pirates starters are 7-1 with a 2.39 ERA over the last 12 games, going at least six innings each time.
Before that stretch, the team had lost 20 of 23.
“I said three weeks ago I thought our starting pitching could pick us up and get us out of this rut, and it’s been outstanding since then,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
The Marlins have been in an offensive slump, scoring nine runs in their last 42 innings. However, they showed signs of breaking out Sunday, hitting three home runs in a 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay to snap a four-game losing streak.
“We’ve got to string some wins together,” said Damion Easley, who had a two-run homer. “But you need that first one before you can get the second.”