McCutchen, Giants hope to solve Pirates

If Andrew McCutchen wants his return to Pittsburgh to be anything other than deeply bittersweet, he and the San Francisco Giants are going to need to solve the Pirates Sunday in a weekend series finale.

McCutchen, a former MVP who was traded to the Giants in January, has gotten ovations all weekend from fans at PNC Park who appreciated his nine seasons with the Pirates.

But the Giants, with a season-long six-game losing streak, and Pirates, who have won five straight, are headed in opposite directions.

Pittsburgh (23-16) will be going for a series sweep Sunday against San Francisco (19-21).

McCutchen is 3 for 10 in the series, each hit a double. He has an 11-game hitting streak, has reached base by hit or walk in 22 straight games and is three hits away from 1,500 for his career.

But the Pirates’ offense has been dominant and opportunistic.

Pittsburgh has scored 17 runs and hit six homers through the first two games of the series. Even with the offense, the winning run in Saturday’s 6-5 win came when Jordy Mercer got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth.

“That’s what we expect,” catcher Francisco Cervelli, who homered Saturday, said of the Pirates finding various ways to win.

“We’re here to win games. That’s it.”

Pittsburgh has nine homers in its past three games, 12 in its previous four games. The Giants, meanwhile, have given up 15 homers during their losing streak.

San Francisco left-hander Derek Holland (1-4, 5.66 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Ivan Nova (2-2, 4.84 ERA) on Sunday.

Nova has been charged with 10 earned runs over his past two starts, totaling 6 2/3 innings following a stretch where he gave up one run in two starts totaling 14 innings.

His last time out, he got a no-decision in Pittsburgh’s comeback 10-6 win against the White Sox after he had a wacky first inning. He threw 51 pitches, had a single bounce off his foot, gave up a triple that left fielder Corey Dickerson lost in the lights, walked two and gave up a two-run homer.

“Bad. Simple. It was a bad one.” said Nova, who gave up five runs and six hits in two innings. “Forget this one and go back to work on Sunday.”

This will be his ninth start but just his third at home.

Nova is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts against San Francisco, the only one with the Pirates coming last Aug. 17 when he gave up four runs in four innings in a 6-5 Pittsburgh win.

Holland has struggled this season, especially on the road, where he is 0-4 and San Francisco is 2-5 in his outings. He doesn’t have a win in his past 12 road starts, with his last win coming last May 21 against Seattle.

In his last start, Tuesday at Philadelphia he gave up three runs and six hits, including two homers, over five innings in a 4-2 loss. He has made it past the fifth inning twice in seven starts and has given up three or more runs in all but one game.

Still, manager Bruce Bochy sees an upward trajectory.

“I thought he made some really good pitches that could have gone the other way,” Bochy told after Tuesday’s game. “Overall, his stuff has picked up.”

Holland has never faced the Pirates.