Pirates face Reds with prospect of spiraling into cellar

STATS/TSX

The Pittsburgh Pirates, jockeying for first place in the National League Central the first several weeks of the season, go into a weekend series against Cincinnati looking at the possibility of spiraling into the cellar conversation with the Reds.

Pittsburgh (33-35) is eight games up on Cincinnati (25-43) but has fallen to fourth in the division and created some separation from the top three clubs by going 6-18 in its past 24 games.

The Reds come to PNC Park with a three-game winning streak.

Cincinnati right-hander Matt Harvey (1-4, 5.97 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl (4-4, 3.95) on Friday.

Both teams had a day off Thursday.

The Pirates are coming off a 5-4 win on Wednesday at Arizona that concluded a 2-4 road trip. Friday's game launches a 10-game, 10-day homestand.

They have been plagued in recent games by a plethora of problems, from defensive lapses to baserunning blunders, blown leads to offensive droughts.

"We're going to get home and figure a lot of things out," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

Shortstop Jordy Mercer, who was 7-for-17 with a homer and four RBIs on the road trip, believes the Pirates can turn things around.

"It's the ebb and flow of the season," he said. "You're going to get into some of these situations where things don't go your way.

"We're able to relax a little bit now. We got a win. Hopefully, we can scratch another one out and roll with some momentum, especially at home with a 10-game homestand. Hopefully, we'll get some momentum at home and carry it into the next road trip."

The Reds are coming off a 7-0 win on Wednesday at Kansas City and are looking to get their rotation into a prolonged groove.

They have gotten back-to-back quality starts after going 15 games without one. During the winning streak, their rotation has a 1.40 ERA after ranking last in the major leagues with a 5.68 ERA.

"You get that, you're going to win ballgames. You're going to win your share anyway," Cincinnati manager Jim Riggleman said of the recent improvement.

It falls on Harvey, who was acquired from the New York Mets on May 8 and will be making is seventh start with Cincinnati, to continue that. The Reds won in Harvey's first three starts, then lost in his past three.

Last Friday, Harvey gave up three homers in his first three innings against St. Louis in a 7-6, 10-inning loss, then settled down in his subsequent three innings.

"That one had more well-thrown pitches than any of the games that he's pitched ... but the select few bad pitches he made really hurt him," Riggleman said.

Harvey is 2-1 with a 4.76 ERA in six career starts against Pittsburgh.

Kuhl has allowed seven runs in his past four starts, totaling 23 1/3 innings. Most recently, he gave up three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings last Friday in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

In four career starts against the Reds, Kuhl is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA.

What to Read Next