Reds-Pirates Preview

The Associated Press

After a rough start, the Pittsburgh Pirates enter Sunday riding a wave of momentum.

The slumping Cincinnati Reds, meanwhile, look lost at the plate.

The Pirates go for a three-game sweep of the visiting Reds, who could be without Brandon Phillips again as they try to avoid matching their longest losing streak from all of last season.

Pittsburgh (5-6) was limited to eight runs while opening 1-5 but has since picked up the pace. The Pirates beat the Reds 3-1 on Saturday for their fourth win in five games.

Garrett Jones, 8 for 18 with a homer during that stretch, stayed hot with two hits and an RBI. Pittsburgh hasn't swept Cincinnati (5-6) at home since April 16-18, 2010.

While things are looking up for the Pirates, the Reds can't seem to get it together. Cincinnati is batting .198 and has been outscored 24-7 during a four-game skid - its worst stretch since dropping five straight Aug. 5-9.

The Reds have had an especially rough time with runners in scoring position, going 0 for their last 26. Cincinnati went 0 for 12 in such situations and stranded 12 runners Saturday.

"You've got to execute," manager Dusty Baker said. "Three times we had runners on second base with no outs and didn't score them. I can't stress enough how important it is to execute."

Phillips missed Saturday's loss due to a family matter and is uncertain to be available in this game. The two-time All-Star went deep twice in Friday's series-opening 6-5 defeat and is batting .382 with four homers in his last eight matchups against the Pirates.

The Reds try to get back on track behind Mat Latos (0-0, 2.84 ERA). The right-hander allowed three runs and struck out eight over 6 2-3 innings of a 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on April 3, then surrendered four runs - one earned - over six innings Monday in a 13-4 victory at St. Louis.

Cincinnati has won each of Latos' last nine regular-season starts dating to Aug. 29. He's gone 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA over that stretch.

Latos has compiled a 4-0 record and a 2.11 ERA over six career starts against Pittsburgh while striking out 40 in 38 1-3 innings. He's made things difficult on Clint Barmes (1 for 14), Jones (2 for 15), and Neil Walker (2 for 12), but Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 5 with a homer against him last year.

With Wandy Rodriguez unable to make his scheduled start due to a strained hamstring, Pittsburgh will turn to 26-year-old Phil Irwin, who will be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to make his big-league debut. The right-hander jumped from Class A to Triple-A last year, going a combined 8-7 with a 2.83 ERA.

"Based on what we've seen, Irwin brings us the best package for competing right now," manager Clint Hurdle told the league's official website. "He has command of the fastball to both sides of the plate, he's got a breaking ball he can throw for strikes, and for swing-and-miss, has a very good changeup. (Against the Reds), you have to command both sides of the plate."

Irwin allowed one run over six innings in his only minor league start this year.

He'll surely be looking to take advantage of the struggling Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey, who are mired in 0-for-15 and 0-for-14 slumps, respectively.

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