The Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates, both trying to win a series for the first time in quite a while, send struggling youngsters to the mound Sunday as the teams close a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park.
Philadelphia starts rookie Cole Hamels (1-4, 5.45 ERA) against Pittsburgh’s Zach Duke (5-7, 5.01) as these in-state rivals try to go into the All-Star break on a positive note after playing very poorly over the past month.
While the Phillies (39-47) have dropped eight consecutive series since sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks from June 5-7, the Pirates (30-59) have lost all seven of their series since winning three of four against the San Francisco Giants from June 8-11.
“I expect us to win tomorrow,” manager Charlie Manuel said after his Phillies beat Pittsburgh 6-2 on Saturday. “We need to go into the break winning a series.”
While Hamels is 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA in his last five starts, Duke has given up at least four runs and failed to pitch past the sixth inning in four straight outings.
The 22-year-old Hamels, who will make his first appearance against the Pirates, recorded his only win on June 6 before losing his next four starts.
The left-hander pitched only two innings, allowing one run, before being lifted after a long rain delay in Tuesday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres.
Duke (5-7, 5.01), who has not won since June 14, also did not get a decision in his last start as he gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of Tuesday’s 7-6 loss to the New York Mets.
The 23-year-old Duke was dominant in winning his only start against the Phillies last season, striking out eight in seven scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.
With Saturday’s loss, the Pirates missed a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since last month’s series against the Giants.
“Consistency. That’s obviously what we’re still searching for,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.
Pittsburgh, which will be hosting Tuesday’s All-Star game, is 4-19 since June 14.
The Pirates’ lone All-Star starter, outfielder Jason Bay, hit his team-high 21st home run on Saturday. He has eight RBIs in his last six games.
Philadelphia’s only starter in the All-Star game, second baseman Chase Utley, takes a 14-game hitting streak into this contest after going 3-for-5 on Saturday. He’s batting .410 (25-for-61) with 12 runs and 11 RBIs during the streak.