Pirates try to start new streak in middle tilt with Phils

The winning streak is over for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but all is not lost. They will try to start a new streak Wednesday in the middle test of a three-game series versus the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Pirates still have the best record in the major leagues at 51-31 and are one of the top clubs at home as evidenced by their 28-14 mark at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh dropped a 3-1 decision to the Phillies in Tuesday's series opener and starting pitcher Brandon Cumpton, who was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis prior to the game, allowed all three runs in five innings.

"He continues to come in, throw strikes, be aggressive," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cumpton. "It was efficient and he was sharp through five (innings)."

Garrett Jones hit a home run for the Pirates, who are two games ahead of St. Louis for the NL Central lead and will try to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time since a three-game slide from June 3-5. The nine-game winning streak was the longest since a 10-game run back in 2004.

After this Keystone State series with the Phillies, the Pirates will visit the Chicago Cubs for three games. But Jeff Locke will try to even the series versus Philadelphia when he takes the mound Wednesday. Locke was originally scheduled to pitch the series opener, but received an extra days' rest.

Locke is 7-0 with a 1.79 earned run average in his last 15 starts since losing his season debut on April 7 at Los Angeles. He tossed seven innings of two-run ball in last Tuesday's 9-4 win at Seattle and is 7-1 overall with a 2.06 ERA. The left-hander faced Philadelphia for the first time on April 23 and spun six scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory.

Locke is 3-0 in seven home starts this season.

The Phillies halted a two-game slide and improved to 4-4 on a 10-game road trip. Ryan Howard broke out of an 0-for-22 slump by stroking an RBI single during a three-run sixth inning and went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

"It felt good to be able to get out there and get a knock and put the team up," Howard said. "It felt good to get out there and run around a little bit."

Domonic Brown and Delmon Young had an RBI apiece for the Phillies, who lost three of four in Los Angeles over the weekend. Chase Utley was 0-for-3 with a run scored and had hit safely in each of his previous nine games.

Phils starting pitcher Jonathan Pettibone held the red-hot Pirates to a run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings for the win, while the bullpen took care of the rest. Closer Jonathan Papelbon was the sixth reliever used by the Phillies and he tossed a scoreless ninth for his 16th save. Justin De Fratus struck out Jordy Mercer with two out and the bases loaded in the eighth.

"It was great," Pettibone said of the bullpen. "They picked me up big time tonight from the sixth inning on. Maybe the last couple of games haven't gone their way, so it was good for them to kind of get back on track."

The Phillies still have two more games in Pittsburgh before heading to Citizens Bank Park for 10 games versus Atlanta, Washington and the Chicago White Sox.

John Lannan draws the start for the Phillies Wednesday and he earned his first win of the season in Friday's 16-1 rout of the Dodgers. Lannan allowed one run in seven innings to end his winless start to the season and is 1-2 in six innings with a 4.83 ERA.

Lannan, a left-hander, went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored at Dodger Stadium and is 1-4 with a 4.53 ERA in nine career starts against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh won three of four in a late April series with Philadelphia and is 7-4 in the past 11 matchups between the Keystone State rivals. The Phils have not won a series in Pittsburgh since April 25-27, 2008.