The Pirates look to avoid extending their season-high losing streak to 10 when they conclude a three-game home series against the Cardinals on Sunday at PNC Park.
With a seventh consecutive loss to St. Louis in the finale, Pittsburgh (53-81) would become the first team in any of the four major American professional sports to have 17 consecutive losing seasons. That would surpass the Philadelphia Phillies’ run of futility from 1933-48.
The Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992, when they went 96-66 and won the last of three straight division titles.
“It hurts, it really hurts,” said Jim Rooker, a Pirates pitcher from 1973-80 and an announcer from 1981-93. “And I don’t see any hope in sight. It’s just not there. You can almost see another losing season (in 2010) and another and another.”
Despite a strong performance from starter Russ Ohlendorf, who struck out the side on nine pitches in the seventh inning, Pittsburgh lost 2-1 in 10 innings Saturday after Albert Pujols(notes) hit a game-winning pinch homer - his major league-leading 44th home run of the season.
“It’s pretty amazing. He’s phenomenal. He had two strikes on him and still won the game for them,” Pirates manager John Russell said of Pujols, who’s batting .449 with five homers and 15 RBIs in the season series.
Averaging 3.5 runs during the current skid, the young Pirates lineup will likely be in for a challenge against Pineiro (14-9, 3.19 ERA), who’s trying for his ninth straight victory.
The Cardinals (81-56), who continue to pull further away from the rest of the NL Central, have won Pineiro’s last 11 starts. The right-hander is 8-0 with a 2.87 ERA since losing to Minnesota on June 28.
Pineiro is 4-2 with a 5.40 ERA in eight career starts against Pittsburgh. He gave up five runs in six innings to take the loss in a 5-2 defeat May 13 - the last time the Pirates beat the Cardinals.
In his last start, Pineiro allowed a three-run homer in the first inning, but gave up one run over the following six innings to earn the victory in a 7-6 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday.
“You know this offense can come back at any time, so I stayed positive even though it wasn’t my best stuff,” Pineiro told the Cardinals’ official Web site.
The left-hander, who gave up two runs in his previous two starts, allowed four and nine hits in five innings of Monday’s 6-3 defeat at Cincinnati.
Maholm is 3-3 with a 2.79 ERA in nine career starts against the Cardinals. He not received a decision in two outings versus St. Louis this season.
Jones is 9 for 20 both in his last five games, and against the Cardinals this season.