The Pittsburgh Pirates hope their best offensive performance of the season can propel them to their first series win in nearly a month.
The Pirates try for back-to-back victories when they conclude a three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday afternoon at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (43-62) holds the bottom spot in the NL Central, 7 1/2 games behind third-place St. Louis (50-54), but didn’t play that way in a 15-1 victory on Wednesday. The Pirates scored five runs in the first inning and seven in the eighth while setting season highs in runs and hits (20).
Catcher Ronny Paulino hit his first career grand slam, a night after his two fielding misplays helped the Cardinals win the opener. Freddy Sanchez went 4-for-5 with an RBI while Jason Bay, Ryan Doumit and Jack Wilson each had three hits for the Pirates, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
“This was a breath of fresh air,” said Wilson, who hit a solo homer. “We had a lot of really good at-bats.”
The Pirates have lost five straight series since winning two of three games against the Chicago Cubs July 6-8. Pittsburgh is also going for consecutive victories for the first time since a four-game winning streak July 3-6.
The Pirates will hand the ball to Shane Youman (2-3, 4.66 ERA), who is trying to avoid losing his fourth straight start. The left-hander gave up a season-high seven runs and eight hits over four-plus innings in a 10-5 defeat to Philadelphia on Saturday.
He walked three and struck out three in his shortest outing of the season.
“That was a shift in the concentration point a little, knowing that it was going to be a battle,” Youman told the Pirates’ official Web site. “I’ve got to just go out there and stay within myself and stay aggressive and make the guys hit.”
After holding opponents to four runs through 12 innings in his first two starts of 2007, Youman has allowed 11 earned runs in his last 17 innings. He has never faced the Cardinals.
St. Louis has lost just three of 10 meetings with Pittsburgh in 2007 and missed a chance for its season-high fifth straight win on Wednesday. The Cardinals’ starting rotation has posted a 7.49 ERA over the last 13 games.
They hope for a better effort from Anthony Reyes (1-10, 6.11), who is trying to build on his first win of the season. The right-hander was recalled on Saturday from Triple-A Memphis for a spot start against Milwaukee and allowed just two runs and two hits over six innings in a 5-2 win.
He walked one and struck out four for his first regular-season victory since beating Pittsburgh 6-3 on Sept. 3, 2006, when he pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings. Reyes’ latest performance earned him another trip to the mound.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” said Reyes, who is 1-1 with a 2.38 ERA in two career starts versus the Pirates. “It was probably the hardest one I’ve ever had to get, so it was pretty nice.”
Reyes went 0-10 with a 6.40 ERA in his first 12 starts of the season to tie a franchise record for futility with Kid Carsey, who began the 1898 season 0-10. Reyes got little support during his dismal start, however, as the Cardinals were held to two or fewer runs in all but two of those games.
Pittsburgh outfielder Xavier Nady should be ready to play this weekend after being removed from Tuesday’s game with pain in his left hamstring.