Pirates-Marlins Preview

It’s been close to 43 years since the Pittsburgh Pirates were

shut out in three consecutive games. Chris Volstad is in position

to make it happen in 2011 if he can fix his delivery issues.

The Florida Marlins have posted 6-0 shutouts in the first two

games of this series, and Volstad will take the mound in Thursday

night’s finale.

Josh Johnson allowed two hits in seven innings and struck out

nine for Florida (10-6) on Tuesday before Ricky Nolasco yielded

four hits and struck out eight in seven Wednesday. Jose Tabata and

Neil Walker are both 0 for 7 in the series, and Pedro Alvarez is 0

for 5 to drop his average to .177.

The Pirates (8-10) have struck out 22 times in the series,

bringing their major-league worst total to 161. The Marlins have

done all their scoring by the fourth inning both nights.

“We haven’t scored a run in 18 innings and they’ve gotten on top

of us early in both games,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

“Twenty-two punchouts in 18 innings means they’re playing pitch and

catch.”

Making matters worse for Pittsburgh is that center fielder

Andrew McCutchen has been allowed to leave the club to tend to an

undisclosed personal matter. Tabata slid over from left to center

and took his leadoff spot Wednesday.

The Pirates were last blanked in three straight games Aug.

28-30, 1968.

Volstad (0-1, 5.59 ERA) is in search of his first win after

going 6-0 with a 3.75 ERA in his final eight outings last year. He

lasted 4 2-3 innings and gave up five runs in a 5-0 loss at Atlanta

on April 12, and the Marlins pushed his next outing back due to a

rainout in Philadelphia while pitching coach Randy St. Claire

worked with the starter’s delivery.

“There are some issues mechanically that he’s doing,” St. Claire

told the Marlins’ official website. “We watched some video. We’ll

attack them on the side.”

The 6-foot-8 right-hander is 1-2 with a 7.07 ERA in three career

starts against the Pirates.

Florida will look to use its speed to get off to another fast

start. Chris Coghlan drove in three runs Wednesday, two on a

second-inning infield single. The Marlins have been using other

ways to score with an NL-low eight homers.

“We’ve been playing very aggressively on the basepaths,”

manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “And tonight was a good example.

We’re not showing the power that we used to show in previous years,

but we’re compensating that with aggressive baserunning.”

Emilio Bonifacio is 5 for 8 in the series and John Buck 4 for 8

with three runs scored. The bottom of the order has also received

productive at-bats from the pitcher’s slot, with Johnson driving in

two runs and Nolasco scoring after drawing a walk.

James McDonald (0-1, 7.47) will start for Pittsburgh after

allowing seven runs over 4 1-3 innings in Saturday’s 11-2 loss at

Cincinnati. The right-hander has failed to last through the fifth

in two of three outings.

McDonald was outstanding in his lone career start against the

Marlins on Aug. 16, giving up one run over seven innings in a 7-1

home victory.

Florida hasn’t swept a three-game series from Pittsburgh since

Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2002.