D-backs go for series split with Pirates

The Pirates are hoping Wandy Rodriguez will help them reach the postseason for the first time in 20 years. To do that, he’d like to earn his first victory with his new club sooner rather than later.

Making his home debut for the Pirates, Rodriguez tries a third time to earn that victory in Thursday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks.

Rodriguez (7-10, 3.82 ERA) allowed three runs on two homers in seven innings of a 3-0 loss in Cincinnati on Friday to fall to 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts since Pittsburgh acquired him from Houston on July 24. The left-hander is 0-4 with a 5.59 ERA in his last five starts overall.

Rodriguez, 3-5 with a 5.40 ERA against the Diamondbacks, is 3-5 with a 4.45 ERA in 10 starts at PNC Park for the Astros.

He’ll try to help the Pirates (63-47) to a second straight victory and a third in this four-game set after they held on for a wild 7-6 win Wednesday. Neil Walker drove in five runs and rookie Starling Marte homered for the second consecutive night to help Pittsburgh move within 2 1/2 games of NL Central-leading Cincinnati, which has dropped four in a row.

“We were probably longer on guts (Wednesday) than we were execution,” said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, whose team continues to hold down the NL’s second wild-card spot.

Walker is a big reason for Pittsburgh’s place in the standings, batting .313 with four homers and 18 RBIs in his last 10 games and .364 with 35 RBIs during Pittsburgh’s 25-12 stretch.

Marte is 4 for 11 in this series, his first at home since making his major league debut at Houston on July 26.

“He’s a young man with a really big skill set who just needs to play,” Hurdle told the Pirates’ official website.

The Pirates, a major league-best 35-17 at home in 2012, have won seven of nine against the Diamondbacks at PNC Park.

The D-backs (56-55) have lost four of five overall since opening their 10-game trip with four straight victories. Willie Bloomquist had three hits with two RBIs and Paul Goldschmidt also drove in two runs Wednesday for the Diamondbacks, but Ian Kennedy struggled in four-plus innings.

Goldschmidt, 6 for 11 with three doubles in this series, is batting .442 (19 for 43) with 12 RBIs in his last 11 road games.

Justin Upton, who was ejected during a dispute over balls and strikes Wednesday, is 1 for 11 in Pittsburgh this week after batting .400 (8 for 20) in his previous five games.

Joe Saunders (5-8, 3.57) looks to avoid a third straight losing start overall and earn a rare road win in the finale.

Though the left-hander is 1-3 in nine road starts this season, he’s posted a 2.48 ERA in those games. Saunders allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings of a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday to fall to 0-3 in seven road starts since pitching a three-hit shutout at Miami on April 27.

Making his first-ever appearance in Pittsburgh, Saunders has gone 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Pirates. He allowed a run in seven innings of a 5-1 victory to kick off the season series April 16.