Twins-Pirates Preview

The Associated Press

Pedro Alvarez has been a very streaky hitter. The Pittsburgh Pirates hope his latest outburst can continue for a while.

He'll look to stay hot Tuesday night as Pittsburgh opens a three-game home series against the Minnesota Twins.

Alvarez is coming off a big weekend, homering twice in back-to-back wins over Cleveland. After driving in three runs Saturday, Alvarez had a career-high six RBIs in a 9-5 victory Sunday with three-run homers in the fourth and fifth innings.

The third baseman went 5 for 8 in those two games after his average had dipped to .189 following a hitless series opener.

"He's worked hard to get to a better place," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He had a very good day at the plate."

However, it's not the first time Alvarez has seemed poised to turn things around. After opening the season in a 2-for-30 slump, he batted .395 with five homers and 13 RBIs over the next 12 games. He would hit .106 without a homer in his next 15.

Alvarez also had consecutive two-homer games in July 2010 during his rookie season but followed with a 4-for-39 slump without a home run.

Despite his inconsistency this year, Alvarez leads Pittsburgh with 12 homers and is second behind Andrew McCutchen with 34 RBIs.

If Alvarez can be a more reliable hitter alongside McCutchen, it could help the Pirates contend for a playoff spot after they faded in the second half of 2011.

"We believe it's more sustainable (this year)," Hurdle told the team's official website. "But our actions will speak louder than our words. Four months from now, it will be a much more meaningful conversation."

The Pirates (34-31) will go for a season-high fifth straight home win when they face the Twins, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-4, 15-inning win over Milwaukee on Sunday.

Trevor Plouffe went 2 for 5 but didn't homer for a second straight game after going deep in each of the previous four. Plouffe is hitting .371 with 10 homers over the last 16 games.

Minnesota (26-39) could be without Joe Mauer after he left Sunday with a bruised right quadriceps. Mauer is hitting .406 with nine RBIs in his last nine games.

The Twins will hand the ball to Scott Diamond (5-2, 2.13 ERA).

The rookie left-hander allowed four runs on a pair of homers in six innings of a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday. He hadn't allowed an earned run over his previous two starts, which had lowered his ERA to 1.61.

Diamond, making his first appearance against the Pirates, is aware of his role to help ease the pressure on a bullpen which pitched 32 innings in six games last week. Minnesota's relievers threw nine scoreless innings Sunday.

"Our bullpen has been worked a little big lately," he told the Twins' official website. "I'm trying to go as deep into ballgames as much as I can myself."

He'll be opposed by Kevin Correia (2-6, 4.43), who is 0-6 with a 7.82 ERA in his last nine games at PNC Park.

Three of his four starts there this season have been quality outings, but he's winless there since beating Baltimore on June 22, 2011.

The right-hander struggled against the Orioles on Wednesday, giving up five runs and a season-high 10 hits in six innings of a 7-1 loss.

Pittsburgh has lost five of six against Minnesota, last facing the Twins in 2009.

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