The Cincinnati Reds finally found an answer to their struggles at home against a division rival.
The Pittsburgh Pirates weren’t so lucky in their bid to end their problems on the road against another NL Central opponent.
After getting swept for the first time this season, the Pirates look to snap their season-high three-game losing streak as they open a three-game series against the Reds on Friday night at PNC Park.
Cincinnati (11-10) used eight one-hit innings from starter Edinson Volquez to take a 3-0 home victory over Houston on Wednesday night. It was the Reds’ first win in their last 12 home games against the Astros.
The Reds will try to build on that performance by taking advantage of a Pittsburgh club coming off a sweep at the hands of the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Pirates (11-10) fell 1-0 on Wednesday for their 15th straight loss to Milwaukee and their 18th straight defeat at Miller Park.
Pittsburgh manager John Russell, though, isn’t concerned about that lack of success carrying over to this series.
“It’s not going to be the (last) time probably this year we lose three games in a row,” Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “We pitched well. We played good defense. We battled through injuries. There’s no reason to hang our heads for three games.”
Russell’s attitude appears to have trickled down to his players, who despite the sweep helped the Pirates finish April with a winning record for the first time since 2002.
“I think we are going to bounce back,” Wednesday’s starter Ian Snell said. “We’ll regroup and come back and start all over again. These guys are really strong-minded and really competitive. Nobody likes to lose, but it’s going to happen. It all depends on how you come out and play every day, and I think we’ve played hard every single game this year.”
The Pirates should feel good about their chances with Zach Duke (3-1, 2.43 ERA) taking the mound Friday. The left-hander held San Diego to one run and six hits in 8 1-3 innings of a 10-1 victory Saturday. He’s pitched at least six innings in each of his first four starts, and he’s already just two wins shy of his total from 2008, when he was 5-14 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 outings.
“I certainly feel good on the mound,” Duke said. “I feel like as long as I’m staying within myself and executing my game plan, I feel like I should be able to win.”
Duke is 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA in five career starts against the Reds, but the Pirates have won the last three.
Bronson Arroyo (3-1, 6.48) will start for the Reds hoping to bounce back from one of the worst outings of his career. The right-hander was tagged for nine runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 10-2 home loss to Atlanta on Saturday.
Arroyo, who broke into the majors with the Pirates and pitched for them from 2000-02, is 2-3 with a 4.07 lifetime ERA against Pittsburgh. Pirates outfielder Eric Hinske, pressed into the starting lineup last week because of an oblique injury to Nate McLouth, is 11-for-23 (.478) with a home run and four doubles in his career against Arroyo.
McLouth hopes to return sometime this weekend.
These teams split their first two meetings of 2009, in Cincinnati.
The Reds averaged 2.3 runs while dropping four of six at PNC Park in 2008.