The Pittsburgh Pirates are taking full advantage of playing the majors leagues’ worst team.
The Pirates look to win three straight games for the first time in a month and hand the Cincinnati Reds their sixth straight loss when they continue their four-game series on Sunday.
Pittsburgh (21-27) defeated the Reds 9-5 on Saturday after winning Friday’s series opener 10-4 in 10 innings. The Pirates arrived in Cincinnati (18-32) with a season-high five-game losing streak, scoring just 10 runs in the last four.
“We’ve done a much better job,” Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy said. “We were 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position, and we drove in eight runs in the 4-5-6 spots. That’s pretty intriguing to see. That’s very encouraging to see.”
The Pirates have not won three in a row since a season-high five-game winning streak April 22-27, and have not won three straight games in a single set at Cincinnati since sweeping the first series at Great American Ball Park from March 31-April 3, 2003.
Jason Bay had three hits and drove in three runs on Saturday, after going 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs the day before. Bay is batting .367 (11-for-30) with two home runs, four doubles and eight RBIs in eight games against the Reds this season.
Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke (1-5, 5.56 ERA) tries to end his personal losing streak as he faces the only team he’s beaten this season when he takes the mound on Sunday.
Duke allowed three runs, six hits and struck out a season-high five batters in six innings of a 6-3 win at Cincinnati on April 8 in his second start of the season, but hasn’t always been as sharp since.
He lost his career-high fifth straight decision his last time out in his eighth start since beating the Reds. The left-hander was tagged for six runs,11 hits and didn’t record a strikeout in 4 2-3 innings of a 9-4 loss at St. Louis on Tuesday.
“I’m not going to get too down on myself,” Duke told the team’s official Web site. “I believe I can get through this and put a pretty good year together.”
Since Duke’s victory at Great American Ball Park in April, he’s posted a 8.56 ERA in losing his next three road starts. Duke is 2-14 with a 5.04 ERA in 22 road starts since the start of last season.
The Reds have lost 19 of 24 overall, and have not dropped six in a row since Aug. 25-30.
Ken Griffey Jr. went 0-for-3 in Saturday’s loss, but is still hitting .319 with 10 homers and 21 RBIs in 25 games in May. Fellow slugger Adam Dunn was hitless in four at-bats and is just 1-for-14 over the last five games.
Cincinnati’s Kirk Saarloos (0-3, 5.09) will make his second start of the season.
After making 20 appearances out of the bullpen this season, Saarloos did not factor in the decision when he pitched 5 1-3 innings and gave up three runs and six hits in an 8-4 loss to Washington on Tuesday. It was his first start since Sept. 19 for Oakland.
“I got my first start, so hopefully (I’ll) just continue to build upon it,” Saarloos told the team’s official Web site. “I was just throwing strikes, not forcing the issue, and making sure that they put the ball in play.”
The right-hander has made three relief appearances against the Pirates this season, allowing one hit in 3 2-3 scoreless innings. Saarloos is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in seven games - three starts - lifetime against them.