Late-game heroics at home are becoming common for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They might not mind making things easier on themselves in order to win for the fifth time in six tries at PNC Park.
The Pirates look to sweep a three-game series from the Cincinnati Reds for the first time in two years Sunday.
Pittsburgh (6-5) lost 99 games last year en route to its 17th straight losing season. However, the Pirates went 40-41 at home, and come in having won four of five there with their last three victories coming in walkoff fashion.
Both wins in this series have been delivered in the final at-bat. Garrett Jones’(notes) two-out single off the wall in right-center with the bases loaded off closer Francisco Cordero(notes) clinched a 5-4 win Saturday.
“We were very confident going into that last inning,” said Jones, who is 4 for 25 over the last seven games. “We had some great at-bats, some tough at-bats.”
“That’s tough to take two nights in a row, them walking off and winning it in front of us,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We were one out and one pitch away from winning that game.”
The Pirates are now in position to sweep the Reds for the first time since April 11-13, 2008 in Pittsburgh.
Paul Maholm(notes) (0-1, 5.73 ERA) might provide the Pirates with a good chance to do that. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA in six home starts against Cincinnati with five resulting in wins for Pittsburgh.
He hasn’t been nearly that effective this season. He threw 97 pitches over five innings Tuesday, allowing three runs and eight hits while not getting a decision in a 6-5 win at San Francisco.
“It was a battle,” Maholm told the team’s official website. “Some days you’re like that and every pitch you’re trying to make sure it’s not over the heart of the plate and you’re keeping the team in the game.”
The Reds are trying to end a season-high four-game slide, during which they’ve posted a .197 batting average and .281 on-base percentage.
Bronson Arroyo(notes) (0-0, 3.86) gets a third chance for his first win of 2010, and a start versus Pittsburgh might be just what he needs. The right-hander owns a 0.86 ERA in winning three games in a row against the Pirates, including two at PNC last year.
Arroyo will try to extend that run after being victimized by a big inning in Tuesday’s 10-8, 11-inning win at Florida. He allowed four of his five runs in the fourth inning before exiting after the sixth.
“I didn’t have a lot of zip on my fastball,” Arroyo told the team’s official website. “So I kind of threw everything I had at them early in the game, hoping to just get deep enough to give us an opportunity to turn the ball over to the pen. It bit me in the butt there with the one big inning.”