A matchup with the Chicago Cubs has given the Pittsburgh Pirates just what they needed to get back on track. They'll try to complete a three-game sweep by taking advantage of a seemingly favorable pitching matchup Sunday.
The Pirates will try to add to Edwin Jackson's woes as they go for their first sweep at Wrigley Field in 13 years.
Pittsburgh (37-25) came to Chicago having dropped five of six but has earned back-to-back wins by keeping the Cubs quiet at the plate. After yielding five hits in a 2-0 victory Friday, the Pirates gave up four in a 6-2 win the following day.
Alfonso Soriano snapped Pittsburgh's 18-inning scoreless streak with a two-run homer in the ninth and ended his team's 17-inning stretch without a run. That was far from enough, however, to keep the Pirates from their fifth straight win in the series.
"It's hard to see those guys play the way they play and we cannot play like that," Soriano said. "Especially, we got shut out yesterday. I don't want it to happen today again."
Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45 ERA) will try to be the latest pitcher to shut down the Cubs (24-35) and give Pittsburgh its first sweep at Wrigley since May 5-7, 2000. The left-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his last six starts and had a scoreless streak of 21 1-3 innings snapped in a 5-4 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday.
Locke was charged with three runs over 5 2-3 innings, though he matched a season high with seven strikeouts.
"He just absolutely battled through the whole game," manger Clint Hurdle told the team's website. "It was a very professional attitude from Jeff, very gutsy effort."
Locke was solid in his first start against the Cubs on Sept. 9, giving up a pair of solo homers over six innings of a 4-2 loss, but wasn't as effective in Chicago one week later when he allowed five runs over 4 1-3 innings of a 13-9 defeat.
He didn't get a decision in either game but might have a good opportunity to earn his sixth straight win Sunday. Locke will oppose Jackson (1-8, 6.29), a loser in each of his last three outings with a 7.04 ERA.
In his latest start last Sunday, Jackson gave up seven runs - five earned - and a season-high 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-4 defeat to Arizona.
"It's probably one of the most frustrating seasons I've been through," Jackson told the team's website. "It's disappointing when you feel like you're not going out to help the team have a chance to win a game. I'm a way better pitcher than I've shown.
"It hasn't been anything about confidence. I just haven't been getting the job done."
Jackson gave up four runs in a rain-shortened, three-inning outing in Pittsburgh on May 23, a 4-2 loss. The right-hander was better in his Cubs debut April 3 against the Pirates, allowing two runs in five innings but taking the loss in a 3-0 defeat.
Jackson is 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA in eight career starts against Pittsburgh.