Reds start series with another NL Central foe
The first week of May wasn't a great one for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it had a lot to do with starting pitching.
Jonathon Niese has been a disappointment on the mound for more than that week, a trend which he'll try to start reversing Monday night as the Pirates begin a three-game series in Cincinnati.
The Pirates (17-14) are 2-5 to start May with a 4.95 ERA out of the starting staff. Niese (3-1, 5.94 ERA) gave up six runs and nine hits with five walks in five innings of Tuesday's 7-1 home loss to the Chicago Cubs.
"My job is to get those hitters out. Today I didn't do a good job of that," Niese told MLB's official website.
Over his last three starts, he's 1-1 with an 8.80 ERA and .414 opponent batting average with nine walks in 15 1/3 innings. The left-hander did add that he's identified some mechanical flaws to focus on going forward.
"I figured something had to be off for as good as I'm feeling out there but not getting results," Niese said. "There are some mechanical issues, stuff that I can work on in between starts. I think it's going to help."
Niese is 2-4 with a 4.06 ERA in seven career starts against the Reds with Brandon Phillips going 9 for 21 with two home runs. Joey Votto (2 for 17) and Jay Bruce (2 for 15) have struggled with him.
Dan Straily's first season with his new team is going better than Niese's. The right-hander hasn't given up more than three runs in any of his four starts and held San Francisco to three runs and six hits for his first victory in Wednesday's 7-4 win. It came despite allowing two home runs.
"Dan pitched great, especially to start the season in the bullpen and go to the rotation and hit the ground running like he's done has really been impressive, Ross Ohlendorf said after closing the game out.
Straily (1-1, 3.56) is 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA in two starts against the Pirates, including a 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh on April 29 after he gave up two runs and five hits in six innings. Starling Marte is 4 for 9 against him, but Andrew McCutchen is 1 for 8.
The Reds (13-19) enter the series after a disappointing split with Milwaukee. Cincinnati won the first two but lost Saturday and Sunday and hasn't won a series since taking two of three from Colorado from April 18-20 and is 5-12 since with a 7.07 ERA out of the bullpen.
"We have to be a way better pitching staff or this is what you get," manager Bryan Price said. "The starters aren't going deep enough into games and the bullpen has to be more effective or we'll have to go to an eight-man bullpen. We are going to wear the bullpen out by June if we don't get better."
The Pirates took two of three in St. Louis over the weekend and got their offense going in Sunday's 10-5 victory. Marte was 3 for 5 with two doubles and went 7 for 14 in the series.