Homer Bailey has been very hittable since his no-hitter for the Cincinnati Reds.
Jeff Locke seemingly has no physical problems to worry about as he brings baseball’s best road ERA into this series finale.
Bailey will pitch at home for the first time since his no-hitter as the Reds seek to complete a three-game sweep of the Pirates on Sunday.
Bailey (5-8, 3.82 ERA) has posted a 6.17 ERA in dropping consecutive outings since his July 2 no-hitter against San Francisco. He has yielded 10 hits in each contest, marking the first time in his career he has allowed double-digit totals in consecutive outings.
Pittsburgh (56-39) will counter with Locke (8-2, 2.15), who has not pitched since July 8 and skipped the All-Star game with lower back stiffness. Locke had no issues in a bullpen session Friday.
“He threw his bullpen very clean and efficient yesterday, which isn’t a game,” manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates’ official website. “He seems to be very encouraged by what he feels so far, and he’s looking forward to the outing.”
Locke is 4-1 with a major league-best 1.76 road ERA in nine outings. The Pirates, however, have dropped all four of them in which he has not recorded a decision.
The left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three career outings against Cincinnati (55-42). Jay Bruce is 1 for 8 against him, Joey Votto 2 for 8 and Shin-Soo Choo 1 for 5.
The Reds are 10-3 when Bailey starts against the Pirates, although they have dropped three of his last five such outings. The right-hander has beaten Pittsburgh more than any team, going 8-2 with a 2.54 ERA.
Andrew McCutchen is 11 for 31 with eight walks against Bailey. The star center fielder is 5 for 8 in this series with solo homers in each game, but that production hasn’t helped Pittsburgh earn a victory.
The Reds have built early leads and held off late rallies in the first two games. They led by five runs in Friday’s 5-3 victory and by four in Saturday’s 5-4 win.
Closer Aroldis Chapman has saved both wins, although the Pirates had at least one runner reach base in each ninth inning.
Pittsburgh put runners on first and third with none out against Chapman on Saturday before failing to score in the ninth. He has struck out four and thrown 35 pitches over two scoreless innings in this series.
“There’s been times he’s walked himself into trouble, but he can strike himself out of trouble,” manager Dusty Baker said.
The Pirates, losers of three straight and seven of 10, are 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position in this series.
“If we keep doing our part and stay focused, something’s going to give,” infielder Jordy Mercer said. “We need a couple of them to fall and we’re going to get going.”
Choo is 24 for 58 (.414) with 14 runs scored during a career-high 14-game hitting streak. Brandon Phillips is 14 for 42 with 13 RBIs in the 10-game season series.
These teams lead the NL wild-card race, with Cincinnati two games behind Pittsburgh for home-field advantage.