Sitting two games under .500 when they began a stretch of 16 straight against teams with losing records, the Pittsburgh Pirates knew their best chance to reverse course in an otherwise forgettable first half was upon them.
So far, they've taken advantage.
After a ninth-inning rally in the opener, the Pirates try to go a season-high four games over .500 and earn a fourth straight series victory Wednesday night against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pittsburgh (43-40) is 22-31 against teams .500 or better, but it's gotten the best of some of the league's lesser clubs over the past month. The Pirates came into this set against last-place Arizona (35-50) having won six consecutive series against teams with losing records.
That includes taking two of three from the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay and three of four from the New York Mets so far in this lighter stretch that concludes with a visit from Philadelphia this weekend. Down 2-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth and with two hits Tuesday, the Pirates rallied against starter Wade Miley and reliever Addison Reed for a 3-2 win on Starling Marte's two-run double and Ike Davis' pinch-hit single that scored Marte.
The victory was Pittsburgh's major league-high 20th in 35 games decided by one run.
''Every time we're up to bat there's a chance we do something,'' Davis said. ''It's hard to shut us down for nine. We've done it a lot this year ... anything is possible with us.''
Their 19-11 home record since the start of May is the NL's second best, and Charlie Morton (4-9, 3.41 ERA) figures to be happy taking the ball at PNC Park for just the second time since May 23. He was 2-1 with a 1.01 ERA in four home starts in May and June, but five of his past six outings came on the road.
The right-hander gave up a season-high six runs in six innings of a 6-3 loss at Wrigley Field on June 20 and seemed headed for more trouble when he allowed three first-inning runs - two earned - at Tampa last Wednesday. But Morton gave up one hit over his final six innings, finishing with 11 strikeouts in a 5-1 loss.
''Charlie battled back,'' manager Clint Hurdle said of Morton, who surrendered at least three first-inning runs for the third time in his last nine starts. ''The first inning, we've seen a couple outings, he seems to be a little over amped."
Morton faced Arizona just once over the last two seasons, allowing two runs over seven in Pittsburgh's 4-2, 16-inning home loss Aug. 18 in the most recent matchup.
The Pirates will get their first look at Chase Anderson (5-3, 3.63), who would love some offensive support after getting a total of two runs during a three-start losing streak. The rookie right-hander didn't do much to help himself against Cleveland last Wednesday, allowing two solo homers and a pair of other runs over five innings of a 6-1 loss.
Anderson has allowed eight homers in 44 2-3 innings, a rate of 1.61 per nine that ranks 71st of 76 NL pitchers with at least eight starts.
''He didn't have very good strike command, first-pitch command,'' manager Kirk Gibson said. ''He didn't control the counts. He got behind in counts. Left balls over the plate.''
Anderson has held opponents to a .185 average in his three road starts, and he's been tough on lefties regardless of venue, limiting them to .182.
Marte has recorded at least one hit in all 11 career games against Arizona with a 1.155 OPS.
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- Arizona Diamondbacks
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