Coming off sweep, D-backs return home seeking best start since 2000 as struggling Pirates pay visit.
By ASSOCIATED PRESSFS Arizona
Arizona Diamondbacks are off to a great start thanks in large part to an impressive offensive surge. The
Pittsburgh Pirates, in contrast, haven't been able to get anything going at the plate.
The Diamondbacks will go for a fifth consecutive win Monday night as they open a three-game set against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, who will try to avoid a fifth straight defeat.
Despite losing slugging right fielder Justin Upton this offseason, Arizona has won five of its first six thanks largely to its bats. Hitting .293 and averaging 6.2 runs, the Diamondbacks are seeking their first 6-1 start since 2000 -- their best seven-game start in team history.
Arizona returns home following a three-game sweep in Milwaukee. While closer J.J. Putz blew his first save by allowing two runs in the ninth inning Sunday, pinch hitter Eric Hinske put the Diamondbacks back on top with a two-run homer in the 11th of an 8-7 victory over the Brewers.
"I prepare all day for a minute of work," Hinske told MLB's official website.
The Diamondbacks will try to stay hot against Wandy Rodriguez (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who helped lead the Pirates (1-5) to their only win, a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. The left-hander gave up two hits and one walk and struck out six over 6 2/3 innings.
"He's a pro," manager Clint Hurdle said of Rodriguez, who's gone 12-12 over 34 career April starts while compiling a 2.86 ERA, by far his lowest in any month.
The Diamondbacks counter with Trevor Cahill (0-1, 4.76), who yielded three runs and five hits over 5 2/3 innings Tuesday in a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. The right-hander, though, struck out seven and may be able to take advantage of Pittsburgh's struggling lineup.
Hitting a major league-low .119, the Pirates, who also rank last in baseball with eight runs scored, proved especially bad in this weekend's three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium.
After getting shut out in the first two contests, Pittsburgh fell 6-2 in Sunday's series finale. Andrew McCutchen provided all the offense with a two-run homer in the first inning, the Pirates' first long ball this season. Pittsburgh is off to its worst start since opening 0-6 in 2006.
"It's going to come, and it's going to come in bunches," A.J. Burnett, who's received zero runs of support over two starts thus far, said of the team's offensive woes. "Our main thing is to stay as positive as possible, not let anything negative creep into our minds."
Rodriguez is 1-5 with a 6.83 ERA over his last six starts against Arizona. His 5.48 ERA lifetime against the Diamondbacks is his second-highest mark against any NL team.
He'll need to be cautious with Paul Goldschmidt, who's gone 9 for 21 with two homers and seven RBIs over the last four games. Gerardo Parra has also come up big, going 12 for 30 (.400) while fellow outfielders Adam Eaton (elbow) and Cody Ross (calf) remain sidelined. Ross, though, could return as soon as Friday.
"He's barreling balls, for sure," manager Kirk Gibson said of Parra. "He's made some adjustments, he's learned how to stay back better. He's a strong kid. He's off to a good start. It certainly helps him to be playing every day right now, too."
In his only career start against Pittsburgh, Cahill struck out a career-high 10 over 7 2/3 innings of two-hit ball in a 5-0 win on June 26, 2010, while with the Oakland A's.
The Pirates took four of seven from the Diamondbacks last season, including two of three on the road.