A dominant performance from their starter gave the Cincinnati Reds a chance to split their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Having Matt Belisle on the mound should give them a good chance to make it happen.
Following Aaron Harang’s masterful outing, Belisle hopes to continue his domination of the Pirates on Thursday in the finale of this four-game set at PNC Park.
Harang threw a two-hitter for his fourth career shutout to lead Cincinnati (61-72) to an 8-0 victory on Wednesday. He stifled a Pittsburgh squad that had been the highest-scoring team in the majors in August.
“With what we have been doing offensively over the course of the month of August, for the guy to go out there and completely shut you down in the manner in which he did, I think you have to tip your cap and give him an awful lot of credit,” said Pirates manager Jim Tracy, whose team can still win its fourth straight series.
While the Reds won for the seventh time in nine games, Pittsburgh (59-73) lost for just the third time in 12 contests and had a four-game home winning streak snapped. The Pirates were held to a season-low hit total and shut out for the first time since July 22.
Pittsburgh has 43 homers in August and is one away from setting the team record for most in any month.
Belisle (7-8, 5.39 ERA) is prone to give up home runs, allowing 22 in his last 19 starts, but he’s only given up one in three outings against Pittsburgh this season and won every time. He posted a 2.14 ERA and a .234 opponent batting average in those starts, walking two and striking out 13 in 21 innings.
The right-hander is 6-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 16 career games, including four starts, versus the Reds - his most wins against any opponent.
Belisle allowed three runs over six innings in a 13-4 win over Pittsburgh on Aug. 3. That was also his last appearance on the road, where he’s gone 5-1 with a 4.46 ERA in 11 starts this year. He is 2-7 with a 6.26 ERA in 13 home outings.
Belisle is looking to win a career-high third straight decision after beating Florida 11-7 on Saturday. He gave up four runs and eight hits over seven-plus innings while walking two and striking out a career-high nine.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” said Belisle, who was recalled from Triple-A Louisville to make his first start since Aug. 10. “The bottom line is we’re a really good team right now, and it’s a good feeling.”
Matt Morris (8-8, 4.40) will try to build on his first victory with the Pirates. The right-hander was acquired from San Francisco at the end of July and went 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a .309 opponent batting average in his first four starts.
He finally won on Saturday, holding Houston to one run and four hits over six innings in a 4-1 win. The 6-foot-5 Morris benefited from a change in his delivery to record his first win since June 11.
“Sometimes when you’re tall, you forget how it affects you,” said Morris, still searching for his first victory at PNC Park this season. “I just made some adjustments to my delivery to try and stay taller and get more leverage on my sinker.”
Morris is 8-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 23 career games versus the Reds, but is 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA in his last three starts against them. His first start with Pittsburgh came against Cincinnati on Aug. 4, when he allowed five runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 9-8, 10-inning defeat.
Ken Griffey Jr., who hit a three-run shot Tuesday for his 592nd career home run, has gone 8-for-24 with three homers against Morris.
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