Friday -- Pirates 4, D-backs 1: Cole' pitching silences Arizona. Saturday -- Pirates 2, D-backs 1; Arizona squanders opportunities in loss. Sunday -- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4.58, 1-2) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (3.00, 0-1) 12:30 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona.
Keep the streak
The D-backs face a Pirates club with a .220 batting average and .275 on-base percentage this season, both of which rank in the bottom five of MLB. That leads one to believe Arizona's pitchers can continue an impressive streak coming into the series. The starters have combined for a 1.88 ERA in the past seven games, and Josh Collmenter starts the series fresh off a complete-game shutout.
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Who's at third?
Aaron Hill got the last start at third base in place of the injured Jake Lamb, but expect Arizona manager Chip Hale to consider starting Yasmany Tomas and Cliff Pennington. Tomas and Pennington tag-teamed third on Tuesday with poor results, but with Hill struggling at the plate, rotating the players on the hot corner is a likely option.
Has Chris Owings found his swing?
Second baseman Chris Owings hit his first home run of the season and added another hit in the Diamondbacks' 8-5 victory against the Rangers on Wednesday, raising his batting average to .220. Afterward he said finding a groove came down to getting enough at-bats under his belt after sitting out part of spring. If Owings and Ahmed can get their bats going, in addition to their usually stellar fielding, it means more opportunities for the run producers at the top of the lineup.
Testing their eyes
On the first pitch or with a two-strike count, Hale wants his batters to swing at what they think are strikes, to be unafraid. They will be tested against a Pittsburgh staff that ranks third in MLB with a strikeout rate of 23.8 percent. Considering the D-backs rank in the top-five in chasing pitches outside the zone and in the bottom-five in swinging at pitches inside the zone, there's room for improvement.