The Pittsburgh Pirates more or less know what to expect from budding superstar Andrew McCutchen, but the rest of their lineup offers little in the way of reliable options.
To have any chance of staying in contention, they'll likely need Casey McGehee and Pedro Alvarez to fill that void.
A day after combining for three homers to stop the Pirates' four-game skid, McGehee and Alvarez look to lead Pittsburgh to a rare interleague road series win in Sunday's finale against the Cleveland Indians.
McCutchen appears to be well on his way to being selected to his second All-Star team with a .922 OPS that ranks among the NL's 10 best, but the Pirates (33-31) have scored the majors' fewest runs (213) and have an on-base percentage (.282) that's on pace to be baseball's worst in 44 years.
They didn't have any of those problems Saturday. Pittsburgh tied season highs with eight walks and four homers, with Alvarez going deep twice in a 9-2 rout of the Indians.
"It's not about the homers, but about having better at-bats,'' manager Clint Hurdle said as the Pirates improved to 23-5 when scoring four runs. "It is what is going on underneath the helmet than the swings.''
Pittsburgh's been trying to figure out what's going on underneath Alvarez's helmet for a while, as the former No. 2 overall pick is hitting .196 and striking out in 35.4 percent of his at-bats. But the Pirates are 19-9 when he gets a hit.
McGehee has hit directly in front of him the past four days, and the offseason acquisition from Milwaukee seems to be hitting his stride. McGehee is 9 for 18 with two homers and four walks in his last five games.
That's as many hits as he'd had in his previous 64 at-bats.
"When you come to a new team, you want to make an impact,'' McGehee said. "I took a step back and tried to relax, put up better at bats. I just feel more comfortable.''
The Pirates, looking to capture their second road series against an AL team in their last 21, might not feel too confident Sunday considering they've never faced Jeanmar Gomez (4-5, 4.71 ERA). The right-hander, though, is 1-3 with a 7.84 ERA in his last four starts.
Gomez gave up two runs and walked four while allowing six hits in five innings of Tuesday's 7-1 loss at Cincinnati.
That lack of support has been nothing new for Cleveland pitchers. The Indians (33-31) have scored 17 runs in their last seven games and are hitting .085 with runners in scoring position during that stretch after going 0 for 8 Saturday.
"That's what it is. Our lineup right now - we're battling," manager Manny Acta told the team's official website. "That's all we can do."
Facing Brad Lincoln (3-2, 3.15) might be a good way to emerge from that slump. Though he has a 0.45 ERA in 13 relief appearances, the right-hander's recent turn in the rotation isn't going well. He hasn't made it out of the fifth in his last two starts, and Tuesday was charged with four runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 innings in an 8-6 loss at Baltimore.
"We need him to pitch better and he knows that," Hurdle said. "... We haven't seen the velocity the last couple times. We need to get him back on track - and we're going to keep him in the rotation."
Lincoln gave up three runs - two on a Carlos Santana homer - over six innings June 20, 2010, in his lone start against Cleveland.
Santana is 6 for 39 (.154) with nine walks in 11 games since returning from a concussion.