Red-hot Pirates eye 10th straight win in opener with Philly

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hopes his team can avoid the distractions of having the best record in baseball and a season-best nine-game winning streak.

Hurdle's club looks to keep rolling along when it open a three-game series versus the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday at PNC Park.

"I've told them, 'You can't shut it out or ignore it, but you can control where it takes you. That's up to you,'" Hurdle told the team's website. "The lessons learned the past two years will be a strength for us moving forward. We're happy with what we've done, but it's not going to change the process.

"I'm just enjoying the ride and looking forward to when this city will be rocking. Somebody's got to hold the wheel; I didn't do a good enough job with the wheel last year."

The Pirates are a major league-best 51-30 on the season, have won nine straight and 11-of-13 and have a two-game edge on St. Louis for the NL Central lead. They are coming off the third sweep in a row and closed a three-game set versus Milwaukee with Sunday's 2-1 win in 14 innings.

Russell Martin had a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the 14th and plated Gaby Sanchez for the game-winning run.

"I was just anxiously waiting for an opportunity," Martin said of his hit.

Andrew McCutchen kept the Pirates alive with an RBI single in the eighth inning and Starling Marte finished with two hits for Pittsburgh, which hasn't lost since June 19 at Cincinnati and has won the last nine home games that have been decided by one run.

Charlie Morton pitched the first two innings and Tony Watson took care of the last three for the win. Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-6 and had his 12-game hitting streak come to an end. He batted .396 during the run.

Pittsburgh, which last won 10 in a row from June 26-July 5, 2004, is 21 games above .500 for the first time since ending the 1992 season with a 96-66 record.

Jeff Locke was scheduled to start for the Pirates Tuesday, but youngster Brandon Cumpton will get the nod. Cumpton was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and compiled a 4-5 mark with a 3.71 ERA in 12 games (11 starts) for the Indians. Cumpton, a right-hander, has made two starts with the big league club this season and has no record and a 3.60 ERA.

Cumpton last took the mound for the Pirates in a 5-3 win at Cincinnati on June 20, when he gave up two runs -- one earned -- in five innings. He will face the Phillies for the first time.

Philadelphia will continue its 10-game road trip (3-4) and lost three of four matchups with the Dodgers over the weekend. In Sunday's 6-1 loss at Chavez Ravine, Kyle Kendrick struggled through six innings and gave up four runs and 10 hits in six innings of work. He suffered a mild concussion when he took a pitch to the head in the sixth inning.

"I feel OK," Kendrick said. "I have a headache. I feel like I got hit in the head. The good thing is it's mild."

Jimmy Rollins had two hits and the team's only RBI, while Ryan Howard continued to struggle with an 0-for-4 performance and three strikeouts. Howard, who is hitless in his last 20 at-bats, is batting just .194 with seven hits and five RBI in his last 10 games.

"We've got to keep working with him and everybody because we need him to hit. We need to get him right," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. "Believe me, we're going to keep trying."

The Phillies have lost seven of 11 games and hope Jonathan Pettibone can cool down the red-hot Pirates when he takes the mound Tuesday. Pettibone is 0-3 in his last eight starts and hasn't won since May 14, when he was 3-0. He allowed three runs in six innings of a no-decision last Thursday at Los Angeles in a 6-4 setback and remained at 3-3 in 13 starts with a 4.17 ERA.

Pettibone is 1-2 in six road starts and made his major league against Pittsburgh on April 22, when he delivered 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball in a 3-2 win for a no-decision.

Pittsburgh won three of four in that late April series and is 7-3 in the past 10 matchups between the Keystone State rivals.