Pirates-Phillies Preview

Gerrit Cole’s last outing was his worst of the season, but it didn’t much matter because the Pittsburgh offense never got going.

That hasn’t been a problem at Citizens Bank Park, where the Pirates open a four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night with hopes of building on a series win over the NL Central leaders.

Cole’s four-start winning streak came to an end in Wednesday’s 3-0 home loss to Cincinnati after the right-hander allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings. He had been 8-0 over his previous 10 starts.

"It was a good run," Cole told MLB’s official website.

He can still keep another going. On the road, Cole (4-1, 2.27 ERA) is unbeaten in his last six starts, going 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA.

He’s 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA in two starts against the Phillies, but he’s never pitched at Citizens Bank. In his start against them last year, he allowed a hit in five scoreless innings of an 8-2 victory. Ben Revere is 4 for 5 against him.

The Pirates (15-16) won six of seven against the Phillies last season, including three of four in Philadelphia as part of an 8-2 stretch at Citizens Bank during which they’ve averaged five runs. They haven’t lost a series in Philadelphia since being swept in three in July 2011, and their .770 OPS there since the start of 2012 is their highest among ballparks where they’ve played more than three games.

After Sunday’s 4-3 home win over St. Louis to take the last two of the three-game series, Pittsburgh has been even better at the plate lately. The Pirates have won three of four while batting .320.

Andrew McCutchen doubled for the fourth straight game – he’s 7 for 16 in that span – and is 18 for 38 in his last 10 against the Phillies. Jung Ho Kang homered, and the rookie infielder is 12 for 26 in his last eight.

"It’s very meaningful that we won against the Cardinals," Kang said. "I hope that we carry this on and all the players are on the same page moving forward."

It shouldn’t take anything special to keep hitting against Jerome Williams or any of the Philadelphia starters. After Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Mets, the Phillies (11-21) have dropped nine of 12 with a 7.11 ERA out of the rotation.

Williams (2-2, 5.18) had his worst start of the season in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss in Atlanta, yielding six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings. In his last five starts, he’s surrendered a .347 opponent batting average.

"I was just not locating the ball down," Williams said. "I’ve just got to get back down in the zone."

It seems he’s been able to do that at home, where Williams is 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA. Since joining the Phillies in August, he’s 4-1 with a 3.22 ERA at Citizens Bank, though the loss came to the Pirates on Sept. 10 as the right-hander allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings. McCutchen went deep and is 3 for 6 with two home runs against Williams, while Pedro Alvarez is 2 for 3 with a home run and a double.

Williams probably shouldn’t expect much support. The Phillies have a .220 home average and have scored an MLB-low 2.8 runs per game on their home turf.

Freddy Galvis, however, is batting .392 in Philadelphia.