San Francisco (49-40) at Pittsburgh (39-50)

Fair Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 62° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Jul 18, 2009
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a tough time scoring runs all season, and that problem hasn’t really gone away since longtime minor leaguer Garrett Jones(notes) was called up last month.

Jones, however, is certainly doing his part to help.

With five homers in his last four games, Jones looks to keep his surge going Saturday night when the Pirates continue their series with the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh (39-50) is 23rd in the majors with 376 runs for an average of 4.2 per game, and that figure has dropped to 3.0 during a 4-11 stretch since June 28.

Jones was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis two days later, and despite only 31 games of major league experience with Minnesota in 2007, the 28-year-old has emerged as the Pirates’ most dangerous power threat.

Jones homered in five games prior to the All-Star break, but Pittsburgh lost each time. The outfielder carried his club Friday, hitting a solo homer off reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum(notes) in the first inning and a mammoth walk-off shot in the 14th to lift the Pirates to a 2-1 win.

“I know a lot of people are waiting for him to fail, but I think we have something here,” manager John Russell said of Jones, who has played in 1,038 minor league games. “We liked what we saw of him in spring training and he’s doing the same things. He’s seeing the ball well and he has big-time power.”

Jones has seven homers among 15 hits since his recall. He’ll try to become the first Pirate to homer in five straight games since Jose Castillo(notes) from May 26-31, 2006.

Homers hurt Barry Zito(notes) (5-9, 5.01 ERA) in his last start before the All-Star break, but he allowed much more than a pair of two-run blasts. The left-hander gave up a career-high nine earned runs over 4 1-3 innings as San Francisco (49-40) lost 10-4 Sunday to light-hitting San Diego, then offered a blunt assessment of his first half.

“Inconsistent,” he told the Giants’ official Web site. “Had some good games. Had some bad games. The goal is consistency. … It is what it is. I’m not going to keep reliving the past.”

Zito has faced the Pirates twice, losing both outings while posting a 4.09 ERA.

Charlie Morton(notes) (1-2, 4.29) will make just his second home start after four of his first five outings in a Pittsburgh uniform came on the road. The right-hander, obtained in the trade that sent Nate McLouth(notes) to Atlanta last month, gave up five runs and 10 hits over four innings in a 5-0 loss at Houston on July 8.

“I’ve got to take the bad things that happened and learn from them,” Morton told the Pirates’ official Web site.

Morton faced the Giants once while with the Braves, allowing three runs over six innings and striking out six in a 3-1 loss on Aug. 17.

Left-handers are hitting .354 against Morton, and that’s the side of the plate where he’ll have to deal with Pablo Sandoval(notes). The third baseman had two hits Friday, his fourth multi-hit game in his last five and his 34th this season.

Sandoval’s .333 average ranks fourth in the NL.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Zito Oak vs. C. Morton Pit
10-13 Record 5-9
4.03 ERA 4.55
154 K 62
81 BB 40
1.35 WHIP 1.46


Saturday, Jul 18