Diamondbacks-Pirates Preview

Strong pitching has spurred the Pittsburgh Pirates’ recent surge and Vance Worley is looking to add another impressive performance to that stretch.

Worley will try to win a third straight start Thursday night when the Pirates go for a three-game sweep of the scuffling Arizona Diamondbacks.

Pittsburgh (44-40) has won nine of 11 to move a season-best four games over .500. The pitchers have been superb, posting a 2.25 ERA – 1.49 lower than the team’s season mark – to help the Pirates take five of the first six on this 10-game homestand.

"We had a bad April. We dug a hole," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We’ve been digging out. That’s all we’re doing right now, is digging out."

Charlie Morton and three relievers combined to scatter eight hits in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Arizona (35-51), a day after Jeff Locke allowed two runs over eight innings before Pittsburgh scored three in the ninth for a 3-2 victory.

Worley (2-0, 1.74 ERA) can help Pittsburgh complete its first series sweep of the Diamondbacks since it won three at home against them from Sept. 17-19, 2010.

The right-hander has been impressive through three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, giving up one run or fewer in two of those outings while reaching the seventh inning each time.

He battled through seven Thursday, throwing a season-high 100 pitches while allowing one run and seven hits with two walks and one hit batter in a 5-2 win over the New York Mets.

"It was a very solid body of work, a very professional effort," Hurdle said. "He’ll be the first one to tell you he wasn’t as sharp as he’d been previously. You saw a man go out there and have to wrestle a little bit and maintain composure, mound presence, and just pound the zone."

He’s 1-0 while surrendering one run and six hits in nine innings over two starts versus the Diamondbacks, but he’s facing them for the first time since earning an 8-5 win with Philadelphia on April 24, 2012.

Gregory Polanco ended his funk with a two-run homer and a double Wednesday. While the rookie right fielder, one of baseball’s top prospects, has reached base safely in 19 of his first 21 career games, he was 5 for 29 over his previous nine contests.

"It’s fun to watch him," Hurdle said. "He’s got skills and he pays attention. The league has adjusted to him to some degree already and now he’s starting to fire back a little bit."

The Diamondbacks own the worst record in the majors and lately have looked worthy of that distinction, batting .217 with 10 runs during a 2-4 stretch. They’ve also committed five errors in the last two games, giving them an NL-high 66 on the season – nine shy of their total from all of 2013.

"That’s uncharacteristic of this team and these guys; we take a lot of pride in our defense," first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said.

Brandon McCarthy (2-10, 5.11) is looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time since May 18-24, 2013. Both of his wins this season have come in San Diego, including Friday’s 2-1 victory. The right-hander yielded one run while striking out seven in seven innings after going 0-5 with a 5.98 ERA since his previous visit to San Diego on May 3.

McCarthy was charged with a 6-2 defeat in his only career start at Pittsburgh on Aug. 16, surrendering four runs with three walks in 5 2-3 innings.