After generating plenty of offense during a three-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Pirates were held in check by the Minnesota Twins in their latest contest.
The Pirates have a good chance to bounce back and regain their offensive punch Thursday night against a struggling Twins rookie starter in the decisive series finale at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (35-32) totaled 25 runs and 34 hits while winning three in a row before three Minnesota pitchers held the Pirates to five hits Wednesday in a 2-1 Twins win. Rod Barajas drove in his team's lone run with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly as the Pirates' five-game home winning streak came to an end with their second loss in 11 contests at PNC Park.
Minnesota (27-40) has won two of three overall after losing four in a row.
The Pirates, however, could be primed to rebound and win a fourth straight home series when they get their first look at Minnesota's Liam Hendriks (0-3, 7.83 ERA). The right-hander allowed five runs - two earned - and three homers in five innings of a 6-2 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday in his first start since May 2 following a stint with Triple-A Rochester.
Hendriks, who has allowed eight home runs in five starts this season, has an 11.91 ERA while losing his last three in a row to remain winless in nine career big league starts.
"It's just one of those things where there are some things I still need to work on," the 23-year-old Australian told the Twins' official website.
That fact may help Pittsburgh provide scheduled starter James McDonald (5-3, 2.32) with more support than he got in his last outing. The right-hander allowed a run and three hits in six innings Friday at Cleveland but did not get any help in a 2-0 loss.
It was the first loss in six starts for McDonald, who is just 2-2 in seven outings when holding opponents under two runs. The Pirates have been shut out in all of McDonald's defeats during his breakout season.
"Sometimes you give up six (runs) and get a win," McDonald said. "It happens. They played hard behind me and that's all I can ask."
It's quite possible McDonald will not have to face Minnesota star Joe Mauer, who has missed the first two games of this series with a bruised right quadriceps. If Mauer is to see action, it could come in a pinch-hitting role.
Josh Willingham's two hits Wednesday included his 14th home run, which broke a tie in the eighth inning. He is 10 for 24 (.417) with three doubles, four home runs and five walks in his last seven games versus Pittsburgh.
"He's the one guy who walks up there and he's swinging for it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He can juice a baseball."
Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez can too, but he went 0 for 2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch Wednesday after going 7 for 11 with four homers and nine RBIs in the previous three games.