The weather may be the only thing capable of stopping the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A day after rain delayed the Pirates’ attempt for their longest winning streak in nearly four years, they’ll close out their four-game series with the Atlanta Braves by playing a doubleheader on Monday.
Pittsburgh (17-19) beat the Braves 5-3 on Saturday for its fifth straight win. The Pirates haven’t won six straight since winning 10 in a row June 26-July 5, 2004.
Rain postponed their attempt to get closer to that mark on Sunday, and the forecast at PNC Park doesn’t appear to be much better on Monday with thunderstorms and temperatures in the 40s expected.
The Pirates, who have won six straight at home, are 4-1 against the Braves (18-17) this season and will finish with their first winning record against Atlanta since 1997. Atlanta, which entered this series on the heels of a 6-0 homestand, has dropped six straight on the road and own the majors’ worst road mark at 4-13.
“The longer this continues, the more pressure builds,” center fielder Mark Kotsay told the Braves’ official Web site. “I think everybody is putting a little too much pressure on themselves at this point.”
The Braves are hoping they can find success in the opener against Pittsburgh’s Zach Duke (1-2, 4.60 ERA), who will be trying to build on his first win in nearly a year.
Duke allowed three runs in 7 1-3 innings of Tuesday’s 12-6 victory over San Francisco. Duke, who was out with left elbow tightness for more than two months last season, was winless in his first six starts this season and 12 since his last victory on June 12 against Texas.
Tuesday’s outing was his longest since he went eight innings in a 3-0 win over the Mets on Sept. 17, 2006.
Duke is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four career starts against the Braves. He went 5 2-3 innings and yielded three runs and 10 hits in Pittsburgh’s 10-inning, 4-3 win in Atlanta on April 3.
Atlanta counters with Jair Jurrjens (4-2, 2.84), who is trying to win his fourth straight decision. The 22-year-old right-hander gave up just one run and matched his career high with eight strikeouts in six innings of Tuesday’s 5-3 win over San Diego.
Jurrjens is in his first full season in the majors and has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts.
In the second contest, Atlanta hopes Tim Hudson (5-2, 2.90) can avoid a personal three-game road losing streak.
The right-hander has lasted exactly three innings in each of his last two starts away from Turner Field, allowing a total of eight runs and 13 hits. He dropped to 1-2 with a 4.29 ERA in four road starts on the season, compared to his 4-0 record and 1.88 ERA in four outings at Atlanta.
Hudson, though, has been outstanding in his last two starts - both at home. He’s 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, including a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 win over Cincinnati on May 2. The two-time All-Star hurler followed that up by allowing two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 win against San Diego on Wednesday.
He’s 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in his last two starts at Pittsburgh, but hasn’t started there since Aug. 3, 2006.
Van Benschoten has appeared three times out of the bullpen since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on April 27 after going 0-7 with a 10.15 ERA in 11 games - nine starts - last season. The right-hander hasn’t won since Sept. 10, 2004, and missed the following two seasons with shoulder problems.