Phillies rookie Lively meets Pirates for first time (Jul 05, 2017)

BY AP • July 5, 2017

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies will send rookie right-hander Ben Lively to the mound in the rubber match against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday.

The Pirates will counter with Gerrit Cole (6-7, 4.51 ERA).

Lively (1-3, 3.72) is in search of his first win since his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants on June 3. That day, he pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run in a 5-3 victory.

Five of Lively's six outings have been quality starts, including his most recent appearance, when he threw 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball in a 2-1 road loss to the New York Mets on Friday.

He will be opposing Pittsburgh for the first time.

Lively must hope he gets improved support from the Phillies' offense. He has received more than four runs of support just once in his young career, in his debut.

"That's what we're looking for, consistency in the middle of the lineup," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's been one of our biggest issues. We have guys that have potential and have shown they're capable of driving runs in, but we need it more often."

The Phillies left 11 men on base on Tuesday, something that Mackanin said needs to change.

"Basically, not enough offense," Mackanin said. "The inconsistency in the middle of our lineup is one of our biggest issues. Three times we had runners on third and couldn't get them in."

One player who has been providing plenty of offense recently is Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

The reigning National League Player of the Month hit a pair of home runs to lead the Pirates to a 3-0 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday.

"He hit the first one good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the win. "He hit the second one more good."

McCutchen is not worried about overthinking his recent hot stretch.

"Just getting myself in a good spot," McCutchen said. "I sound like a broken record, but that's about it. Just getting myself in position to be ready to hit and getting a pitch I was able to do something with. When I'm in a good spot, I can do that."

He has been in a great spot lately, batting .392 with 10 homers, 29 RBIs and a 1.195 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his past 37 games. After falling below the Mendoza line early in the season, McCutchen has overcome his struggles at the plate and is again a nightmare for opposing pitchers to face.

"That's what makes the game special," Hurdle said of McCutchen's play. "Elite players, when they get to those levels and they stay in that rare air, that's why they get MVPs and why they get Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves. There's a separation level, and that's no air I've ever been in."

Cole knows something about the game's top level, as he was an All-Star in 2015. He looks to rebound Wednesday in Philadelphia after giving up seven runs in his Friday start against the Giants, a run total he has reached three times this season.

Cole has had great success against Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera in his career, striking him out six times in 10 tries. He is 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA in six all-time starts against Philadelphia.

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