Pirates hope to keep good times rolling vs. Reds (Jul 22, 2018)
The Pittsburgh Pirates apparently got tired of hearing their season effectively was over weeks ago. That they would be eager sellers rather than buyers at the trading deadline. That they were doomed to fail this season without the traded-away Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates kept their second-half surge going Saturday night, beating the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 for their eighth consecutive victory.
Now they will send a pitcher who is commanding of late to the mound Sunday to try to finish off the three-game sweep at Great American Ball Park.
The Pirates' winning streak is their longest since they also won eight in a row from Sept. 19 to Sept. 26, 2015. They've won 10 of 11 overall and they're one game over .500 (50-49) after being nine games below the break-even mark only two weeks ago.
On Saturday, Josh Bell went 4-for-4 with an RBI double, Corey Dickerson hit two solo home runs and winning pitcher Nick Kingham (5-4) limited the Reds to two runs in 6 1/3 innings while also contributing a two-run single.
"We're playing real loose, more guys are passing the bat to the next guy and it's been contagious," said Dickerson, who has four hits so far in the series.
The Pirates are continuing their pre-All-Star surge by outscoring the Reds 18-3 in the first two games of the series.
"To a man, it's been a pack mentality," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his team's series of strong at-bats during the winning streak. "They're focused, they're intent, they're consistent. The preparation has been consistent. Everybody contributed, and it was a really good group effort."
Right-hander Ivan Nova (5-6) will start Sunday as the Pirates try for their second sweep in as many weekends; they swept the Milwaukee Brewers in a five-game series at PNC Park just before the All-Star break.
Nova is 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA in seven starts since coming off the disabled list (sprained finger) on June 10.
Nova's last start was an effective one, too, even though he didn't figure in the decision, a 2-1 win over the Brewers on July 14 in which he allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings. This will be his third start of the season against Cincinnati; he split the first two, losing to the Reds and right-hander Luis Castillo 5-4 on May 24 before beating the Reds and Castillo 6-2 on June 16 in Pittsburgh.
While the Pirates are in a comeback mode - they're closing in on third-place St. Louis in the National League Central -- so is Reds right-hander Matt Harvey, who is 5-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 12 starts since being acquired from the New York Mets.
And while the Reds will be looking to Harvey on Sunday to help them end a three-game losing streak, several major league teams no doubt will be looking to see if Harvey might be a fit for them down the stretch.
Harvey (5-5) is solidifying an otherwise very young Reds rotation, failing to allow any more than two runs in any of his last five starts, but he would seem to be better suited right now for a contending team rather than a last-place club like Cincinnati, especially since he is a free agent after the season.
The Reds won 21 of 31 going into the All-Star break, but they were so far out of contention after their 8-27 start that getting to .500 by the end of the season would be difficult to achieve even if he remained with them.
Harvey is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates and 1-1 this season. He beat them 7-2 on May 22 for his first win with Cincinnati but lost at Pittsburgh 3-2 on June 15. He gave up a combined four runs in 11 innings in the two starts.
Harvey last pitched on July 13, limiting the St. Louis Cardinals to one run and four hits in five-plus innings during a 9-1 Reds victory. He has won his last four decisions.
"He's a pro," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "He keeps going out there and getting better and better. We're lucky to have him. It was a great move by our front office to bring in him here."
Now another front office may attempt to make such a move before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.