A little extra time off may have been all the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to get their offense in gear.
The Pirates look to build on their highest-scoring contest of the season and sweep a rain-shortened two-game series from the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday at Great American Ball Park.
Pittsburgh (3-2) has had several players sidelined the last three weeks with a virus, but the team looked rejuvenated in Saturday’s 10-2 win over the Reds (1-3) after Friday’s series opener was postponed due to rain. The Pirates had 12 hits - including three home runs - in their first game since managing one hit in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to St. Louis.
Ryan Doumit hit his first career grand slam - one of three hits on the day - after going 2-for-16 through his first four games. He was originally scheduled to get the day off but ended up starting after the series opener was called.
“It worked out,” Doumit said. “I want to play. If I have to wake up and come here, I might as well play. It was a great day.”
Nate McLouth had a two-run homer in the first inning and run-scoring single in the seventh after going 1-for-14 in the St. Louis series. Building on that performance won’t be easy for McLouth, who is 1-for-16 lifetime versus Sunday’s scheduled starter Aaron Harang (0-1, 1.80 ERA).
The Reds have lost three of their first four for the first time since 2003 - their first season in Great American Ball Park. They finished with six hits Saturday and are batting .218 on the season.
“We’ve just got to play better heads-up baseball - play with our heads up, not with our heads down,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Baker is hoping that Harang’s 6-17 record last season was merely an aberration after he went 16-6 in 2007. The right-hander’s first start of 2009 was a step in the right direction.
In Monday’s season-opening 2-1 defeat to the New York Mets, Harang allowed one run, seven hits, three walks and struck out two in five innings.
“I love the way he pitched,” Baker told the Reds’ official Web site. “His zip and velocity were back. He had a sharp breaking ball. He got some tough hitters out in some tough jams.”
Harang looks to get a win over Pittsburgh for the first time since 2007. He went 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in three starts versus the Pirates last season after going 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts against them in ’07.
Pittsburgh counters with Ian Snell (0-1, 13.50), who hopes his second start of the season goes better than his first.
The right-hander allowed eight runs - six earned - and nine hits in four innings in Tuesday’s 9-3 loss to the Cardinals. Snell was one of the Pittsburgh players battling the flu, but he didn’t use that as an excuse.
“I didn’t execute any of my pitches tonight and I paid the price,” said Snell, who went 2-2 with a 5.01 ERA in four starts against the Reds last season. “I just didn’t have location; nothing was working for me.”
Snell is trying to help the Pirates win for the sixth time in seven games in Cincinnati.