Pirates-Indians Preview

Poor pitching has cost the Pittsburgh Pirates a share of the NL

Central lead.

The Cleveland Indians’ staff hasn’t done themselves any favors

lately, either.

The Pirates will try to put the brakes on their longest losing

streak in two months Friday night when they open a three-game

series with the Indians.

Pittsburgh (32-30) entered its series in Baltimore tied for

first place in the division but three straight losses has dropped

the club three games behind Cincinnati.

Those defeats can be blamed largely on ineffective pitching by

the Pirates, who compiled a 9.38 ERA and allowed the Orioles to hit

.396 with 19 extra-base hits – including seven homers. That dismal

stretch followed a 12-3 run, during which Pittsburgh sported a 3.02

ERA.

Thursday’s 12-6 loss was the ugliest of the three, as Baltimore

pounded out a season-high 16 hits – eight doubles – and held a 10-0

lead after four innings.

An even bigger blow to the pitching staff came earlier in the

day when it was announced that right-hander Charlie Morton

underwent Tommy John surgery that will keep him out 12-18

months.

“The sky’s not going to be falling now that we got swept here in

Baltimore,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We got wiped out. We got

outplayed for three days.”

Hurdle hopes James McDonald (5-2, 2.39 ERA) can give his

overworked bullpen a much-needed rest. Six of the right-hander’s

last eight starts have resulted in wins for the Pirates and he’s

5-1 with a 2.22 ERA during that stretch.

McDonald, though, had his worst outing of the season Saturday

against Kansas City, allowing three runs and five hits over four

innings in a 5-3 win.

“I just didn’t have any command of my pitches and it’s the type

of game I want to throw away and start looking to bounce back for

the next one,” said McDonald, who is facing Cleveland (32-30) for

the first time.

The Pirates have never fared well on the road against AL

opponents, losing 40 of their last 48 interleague away games.

They’ve dropped four straight and eight of nine at Progressive

Field.

Cleveland won’t be in any mood to offer sympathy to Pittsburgh’s

battered pitchers since its staff has a 6.25 ERA during a 6-12

stretch. The Indians were outscored 24-9 in a three-game sweep at

Cincinnati, giving up 17 hits in a 12-5 loss Thursday to complete a

4-5 road trip.

“Not the way you wanted to finish a road trip,” manager Manny

Acta said. “They beat us on both sides of the ball. Their starters

pretty much held our offense down, and they out-hit us, too.”

One positive in the loss was Michael Brantley extending his

hitting streak to 21 games, longest in the majors this season.

”He’s got that streak going, which is such a nice thing and

special,” Acta said. “That’s one good thing going right now.”

Justin Masterson (2-6, 4.76) will try to avoid losing a

career-high fourth straight start for the Indians. Though he’s 0-3

with a 5.21 ERA during the skid, those numbers are somewhat

misleading since most of that damage came in an 8-2 loss to Kansas

City on May 29.

The right-hander was a tough-luck 2-0 loser at St. Louis on

Saturday, yielding one run and five hits in seven innings with no

walks and six strikeouts.

Masterson, who has no record in two starts against Pittsburgh,

has held Andrew McCutchen – the only Pirate hitting above .271 –

hitless in six career at-bats.