Pirates-Cardinals Preview


After an outstanding offensive performance in June, the Pittsburgh Pirates will try to begin July with another set of accomplishments.

The Pirates, though, likely won't have top hitter Andrew McCutchen in Sunday's series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pedro Alvarez helped his team tie a franchise record with a first-inning grand slam in Saturday's 7-3 victory at Busch Stadium. The home run was Pittsburgh's 39th in June to match a mark set in 1975.

The Pirates (42-35) were also among the major league leaders during the month with 146 runs scored and have homered in eight straight contests. They've gone deep 10 times during a four-game win streak and batted .314 while scoring 37 runs.

McCutchen led the way for much of the month by hitting .441 and driving in 14 runs over his last 14 games, but he left in the seventh inning Saturday with a sprained left wrist. The outfielder, who is batting .346 with 15 homers and a team-best 51 RBIs, suffered the injury while making a diving catch in the third.

Manager Clint Hurdle said McCutchen will probably rest on Sunday.

''I don't get days off, I'm not trying to get days off,'' McCutchen said. ''I get days off in the offseason.''

If McCutchen sits out, it will be up to Alvarez, batting .360 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in his past 14 games, and the rest of the Pirates' hitters to help the team move eight games above .500 for the first time since their NL East-winning club finished 96-66 in 1992.

Pittsburgh is also seeking its first sweep of three games or more in St. Louis since winning four in a row there July 3-6, 1997, and its first five-game win streak since Sept. 17-22, 2010.

"They've been pretty good against us," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told the team's website. "You just look at their team as a whole, they're a lot better than what people think.

"They had a slow start offensively, so their numbers are a little deceptive, but the last month, they've been as good as anybody."

Erik Bedard (4-8, 4.27 ERA) will try to help the Pirates with another strong outing against the Cardinals (40-38). He fanned a season-high 11 and gave up two runs over five innings during his first game in St. Louis, a 6-3 win May 3.

Bedard, though, is 0-4 with a 9.47 ERA in his last four road starts and 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA in his last three overall. The left-hander gave up four runs over six innings in a 5-4 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday.

He'll be opposed by Jake Westbrook (6-6, 3.77), who is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA over his last three outings. He gave up two runs over six innings Monday in Miami but did not get a decision in an 8-7 win.

The right-hander hasn't proved nearly as effective in six lifetime starts against the Pirates, going 0-5 with a 5.97 ERA, his worst record against any team. He was outdueled by Bedard on May 3, giving up four runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings.

Carlos Beltran will try to help Westbrook by extending his major league-best RBI streak to nine games. The outfielder, who hit his 400th career double Saturday and recorded his 2,000th hit Friday, has driven in 13 runs during his streak and is among the NL leaders with 61 RBIs.