The Arizona Diamondbacks still have some work left to do before claiming their first division title in five years.
Arizona looks to avoid a third consecutive loss and move closer to winning the NL West as its continues a three-game road set with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.
The Diamondbacks (88-69) lost 6-5 in Tuesday’s series opener against the Pirates (67-90), and had its division lead reduced to two games with five remaining—all on the road. Arizona’s magic number to clinch its first division title since 2002 stayed at four after San Diego rallied with four in the top of the ninth inning to beat San Francisco 6-4 later on Tuesday.
“I said this before, we’re going to have to win this thing,” Arizona outfielder Eric Byrnes said. “Teams aren’t going to give it to us. But the good thing is we still do have that lead.”
Arizona’s four-run eighth tied the game at 5, but Josh Phelps - mired in a 3-for-25 slump - came through with a two-out, run-scoring single in the bottom of the frame that gave Pittsburgh the lead.
“It’s a tough one,” Byrnes said. “This team has a lot of fight in it. It impresses me every night.”
Stephen Drew, Tony Clark and Jeff Salazar each had two hits Tuesday for the Diamondbacks, who have lost four of their last six road games. Drew, who also drove in a run, is batting .389 (7-for-18) with three RBIs in four games at PNC Park this season.
While the Diamondbacks’ offense came to life late Tuesday, they’ll hope for a better performance from their pitching staff Wednesday. Arizona has given up 13 runs in two straight losses after yielding nine during a four-game winning streak.
The Diamondbacks will look to veteran Livan Hernandez (11-10, 4.85 ERA) as he looks to win his second consecutive start. He allowed three runs and 10 hits in six innings—topping 200 pitched for the eighth straight season—during a 12-3 home win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
The right-hander, who is 3-3 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts against the Pirates, hasn’t pitched well in Pittsburgh. He’s given up fewer than three runs in only one of seven starts there while posting a 1-3 record with a 6.69 ERA.
Pittsburgh counters with Matt Morris (9-11, 5.02) as he looks to avoid a third straight loss. He gave up six runs and eight hits in four innings of a 6-3 loss at San Diego on Thursday.
The right-hander, who is 2-4 with a 6.71 ERA in 10 starts since being acquired from San Francisco at the trade deadline in July, has allowed 13 runs in 7 1-3 innings over his last two starts.
He is 4-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 11 lifetime starts against Arizona, and 0-2 with a 2.86 ERA in three starts against the Diamondbacks this season - all with the Giants.
Tuesday’s victory snapped a season-high, nine-game losing streak for Pittsburgh.
“The last nine days have been very difficult for us,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “And we’re going to try to come after them again tomorrow.”
Nyjer Morgan went 2-for-3 with his first career homer Tuesday for Pittsburgh. He’s batting .435 (10-for-23) in his last six games.