Losers of three straight, the Pirates look to extend their winning streak over the struggling Giants to seven games for the first time in 10 years as the teams open a three-game series Friday night.
Pittsburgh (4-5) was swept in a three-game set by St. Louis to start the week, scoring two runs in each of the last two games after being shut out in the opener. The Pirates are batting .192 with runners in scoring position and .225 on the season.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Pirates third baseman Freddy Sanchez, the reigning NL batting champion. “We’ve got to do a better job of hitting with runners on base. Hopefully, everybody will start heating up at the same time.”
Pittsburgh played San Francisco (2-7) seven times last season, winning the final six despite scoring three runs or less four times. A win Friday would give the Pirates seven straight victories over the Giants for the first time since they took the final six meetings of 1996 and the season opener in 1997.
The Pirates left 13 runners on base in a 3-2 defeat to the Cardinals on Wednesday, losing in the ninth inning on a homer by Chris Duncan.
First baseman Adam LaRoche, his average down to .097, didn’t start for the first time this season because of lower back stiffness. His status for Friday’s game is uncertain.
Zach Duke (1-0, 3.46 ERA) will take the ball for the Pirates, looking for his third straight strong start. He picked up a win in his last outing, holding Cincinnati to three runs and six hits in six innings for a 6-3 victory April 8.
Duke’s two career starts against San Francisco came last season, and he posted a 2.19 ERA without receiving a decision.
While Pittsburgh hasn’t been hitting, the left-handed Duke will also be facing a struggling Giants lineup. San Francisco lost two of three to San Diego, dropping the series finale 4-0 on Wednesday night.
The Giants were shut out by the Padres for the third time in six games this season. They lost 7-0 on opening day at San Francisco on April 3, then 1-0 on Monday.
San Francisco has a .232 batting average and has scored 20 runs in nine games.
Barry Bonds went 0-for-4 for the Giants on Wednesday and is batting .192 with one home run on the season.
San Francisco’s Todd Linden started in right field and is scheduled to start again in Friday’s series opener. Manager Bruce Bochy said that will give veteran Randy Winn a few days off after starting the first eight games.
“I need to keep him (Linden) sharp,” Bochy told the team’s Web site. “Our plan is to give him a lot of at-bats this year. … He’ll get his opportunities in consecutive games.”
Russ Ortiz (0-1, 5.40 ERA) will get the start for San Francisco. He struggled somewhat in his first outing, giving up three runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings of a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday.
The right-hander hasn’t faced the Pirates since 2005, but is 7-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 starts against them.