The Pittsburgh Pirates got off to a rough start on their road trip, but they have a chance to end it in impressive fashion.
The Pirates go for their first road sweep of the Florida Marlins since 1993, when the teams conclude their three-game series on Thursday at Dolphin Stadium.
Pittsburgh (33-44) lost five of six games to open its nine-game road swing, but has rebounded with consecutive victories. The Pirates hit back-to-back homers with two outs in the 10th inning Wednesday to beat the Marlins 7-5, finishing the game with a season-high four home runs.
Xavier Nady went 3-for-5 with two homers - including the go-ahead solo shot - while Ryan Doumit and Jose Bautista also went deep. The Pirates, who scored more than four runs for the first time in seven games, are now trying for their first sweep in Miami since Sept. 14-16, 1993 - the inaugural season for the Marlins franchise.
“We showed some perseverance,” Doumit said. “This was big to take this series.”
The Marlins (36-42) have been outscored 28-12 during a four-game skid, and are trying to avoid a fifth straight defeat for the first time since a season-high six-game losing streak April 15-20.
“It’s not that we’re flat, we’re not getting the hits when we need to,” said Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose club has dropped 11 of its last 14 at home.
Florida hopes for better luck against struggling Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke (3-6, 5.44 ERA), who is allowing opponents to hit .354 against him this season. Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla is 3-for-5 with a double during his career versus Duke, while third baseman Miguel Cabrera is 3-for-7 with three doubles.
The left-hander allowed one run and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings of Friday’s 5-4, 11-inning defeat to the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched with runners on base in every inning.
Duke is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in three career starts versus the Marlins, including a May 16 outing when he held them to two runs and eight hits over seven innings but did not record a decision. Scott Olsen (5-6, 4.76 ERA) opposed him in that game, and will again Thursday.
Olsen also did not receive a decision in the last meeting, allowing three runs and five hits over 6 1-3 innings. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three career starts versus the Pirates, but has struggled to slow Nady, who is 2-for-5 with a homer against him.
Pittsburgh first baseman Adam LaRoche is 4-for-7 with two homers against Olsen.
Olsen allowed two runs in the first inning Friday, then followed with five shutout innings. He didn’t earn a decision in the 5-4 victory over Minnesota.