Pirates bring playoff ambitions to Philadelphia

( - The Pittsburgh Pirates will continue their playoff push when they visit the Philadelphia Phillies Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park.

The Pirates are currently in control of the second wild card spot in the National League and still have a chance for an NL Central title at 4 1/2 games off the pace. The Pirates swept the Chicago Cubs in three games this weekend at Wrigley Field and took Sunday's finale by a lopsided 10-4 score.

Jordy Mercer, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole all homered for Pittsburgh. McCutchen and Walker had three hits apiece and combined for five runs scored, while Gaby Sanchez went 3-for-5 with an RBI in the 19-hit attack.

Cole, who was staked to an 8-0 lead by the fourth inning, held on for the win and gave up four runs -- three earned -- in six innings. He struck out eight batters and did not issue a walk.

"The offense exploding early allowed me to try some things out there," Cole said. "I didn't really have a whole lot working, but with a lead like that, you can take some risks. I was fighting myself as well as the Cubs."

Pittsburgh has won seven of its last 11 games and is 3-3 on a 10-game trip.

Taking the mound for the Pirates Monday will be Jeff Locke. Locke is 6-4 with a 3.75 earned run average and was 4-0 in five outings until Tuesday's 6-4 loss at St. Louis, where he permitted five runs (4 earned) in just three innings.

Locke has won all three of his career starts against the Phillies and is 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA in eight road starts.

Philadelphia completed a nine-game road trip with a 5-4 mark and failed to complete a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals with Sunday's 3-2 loss in DC.

Cole Hamels was saddled with the loss after he gave up all three runs in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked three batters.

"Cole wasn't as sharp with his command and just controlling the ball," said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.

Marlon Byrd had two of Philadelphia's six hits.

Kyle Kendrick will try to get Philadelphia's seven-game homestand off to a good start when he toes the rubber Monday. He is 8-11 with a 4.77 earned run average and has won three straight starts, previously taking the hill in last Tuesday's 4-0 win at Atlanta. Kendrick delivered seven scoreless innings.

The right-hander is 5-5 in 14 home starts and 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA in eight career meetings (6 starts) with the Pirates.

Pittsburgh swept the Phillies in three games at PNC Park from July 4-6 and has won nine of the past 12 games in this series.