The Pittsburgh Pirates Auston Matthews Jersey , 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 Connor Brown Jersey , 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 Bruce Smith Jersey , Kuhl is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA.
The surging San Francisco Giants have made the NL West a little more intriguing.
Brandon Belt and Joe Panik drove in two runs each, Hunter Pence had a pinch-hit, two-run double, and the Giants completed a three-game sweep with a 9-6 victory over the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. It was San Francisco’s seventh win in eight games and their first sweep of the Diamondbacks since September of 2016. San Francisco moved into a second-place tie at 2 1/2 games behind Arizona for the first time since June 10.
A four-run fifth inning highlighted by Pence’s double off reliever Silvino Bracho gave the Giants an 8-3 lead. Cory Gearrin (1-1) got one out in the fourth inning to earn the win in relief of starter Derek Holland.
Afterward, manager Bruce Bochy praised the veteran Pence – who is primarily a bench player at present – for accepting his role.
”He is our spiritual leader. I know his role has changed and he has handled it so well. This is a little bit of a change for him and it is not easy,” Bochy said. ”He has a great attitude and just wants to help the club win.”
The Giants tagged starter Zack Godley (9-6) for seven runs on nine hits in four-plus innings, ending his four-game winning streak. But Holland didn’t make it out of the fourth, chased after loading the bases with an intentional walk with San Francisco leading 4-3.
The Diamondbacks couldn’t take advantage, as Belt raced well beyond the first base bag into shallow right field to throw out Christian Walker at first and end the inning.
”We feel like we are in a good rhythm,” Pence said. ”It’s part of baseball and we feel like we are working on all cylinders and that is definitely momentum.”
Holland allowed three runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Godley’s five walks were the second most he’s issued in a start this season.
”I couldn’t locate certain pitches and they took advantage of that,” Godley said. ”They’re swinging the bat really well right now, one through nine.”
Arizona rallied with two runs in the seventh on Paul Goldschmidt’s 18th home run of the season, and Jarrod Dyson became the eighth player in team history to record at least two hits Frederik Andersen Jersey , two RBIs and two stolen bases in a game.
The Diamondbacks brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth with two outs, but Will Smith struck out Jake Lamb for Smith’s second save.
”They kicked our butts. They came in here and beat us, straight up,” Lamb said.
WALKER IN LEFT
Walker, normally a first baseman, started Sunday in left field for the first time in his 44-game major league career.
To help provide coverage for the bullpen amid a long stretch without a day off, Arizona called up Bracho from Triple-A Reno before Sunday’s game. Pitcher Jimmy Sherfy was sent back to Reno. Bracho has been recalled five times this season.
FIRST PITCH FOR FIRST PICK
Recently drafted Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton, the first overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday’s game.
Giants: 3B Pablo Sandoval was hit by a pitch in the right elbow in the third inning and left the game before the bottom of the inning. X-rays were negative and the injury was announced as a deep bruise, with Sandoval’s status day to day. … 3B Evan Longoria is about a week away from taking some swings as he works his way back from a broken left hand, Bochy said. … RHP Jeff Samardzija’s final rehab start for Triple- A Sacramento is set for Monday and he is expected to pitch five or six innings with around 90 pitches.
Diamondbacks: INF Ketel Marte was held out after suffering a right leg cramp in Saturday’s game. Manager Torey Lovullo said he felt the team ”dodged a bullet” as far a more serious injury.
Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner (1-2) is set for his sixth start of the season in the series opener against the Colorado Rockies on Monday in Denver.
Diamondbacks: LHP Robbie Ray (3-0) is set to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the series opener at Chase Field on Monday.
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