Players and fans expressed their displeasure with the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this summer when the club traded most of its veteran talent and committed fully to a youth movement.
If Pittsburgh’s young lineup continues to perform like it has lately, the grumbles will likely subside.
The Pirates look to match their season high with their fifth straight win Saturday night when they continue a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (50-70) is well on its way to suffering its major league-record 17th consecutive losing season. Still, the players and fans that were frustrated when the team dealt Nate McLouth(notes), Freddy Sanchez(notes), Jack Wilson(notes) and Adam LaRoche(notes) before the trade deadline might be encouraged by the Pirates’ recent play.
Jones is 5 for 14 with two home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored during the Pirates’ winning streak. McCutchen has hit safely in each game, and Delwyn Young(notes) - acquired early this season - has an RBI in each one.
“I’m just starting to see some results, and any time you see results, you get more confident and when you get more confident you feel comfortable,” said the 24-year-old Milledge, who hit a solo shot Friday. “So I just want to be consistent and day in and day out.”
The Reds (51-70) hope to stop the Pirates’ streak and avoid falling into last place in the division. They outhit Pittsburgh 9-5 in the opener but went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base while suffering their sixth loss in seven games.
“They gave us a bunch of chances,” manager Dusty Baker said. “… We’re just not getting that hit with runners on base. You can get all the hits you want to, but you’ve got to get some RBIs.”
Zach Duke(notes) (9-11, 3.42 ERA) will start Saturday for the Pirates, who have lost eight of the left-hander’s last nine starts. Duke, who’s 1-6 in that stretch, gave up three runs in 7 1-3 innings to suffer a 3-1 road loss to the Chicago Cubs last Saturday.
Duke is 2-3 with a 3.48 ERA in six starts against the Reds. He held them to one run in seven innings May 1, but he still lost 4-0. He’s gotten one total run of support in 17 2-3 innings spanning three home starts against Cincinnati, all losses.
The Reds will hand the ball to Justin Lehr(notes) (2-0, 2.42), who’s been effective in four starts since he was called up from the minors July 31. The right-hander gave up three runs in six innings and left with a one-run lead over Washington on Sunday before the Cincinnati bullpen faltered in the 5-4 defeat.
Lehr has made four relief appearances against the Pirates, holding them scoreless over 4 2-3 innings.