With an upcoming series against the NL Central leaders, it's imperative the Pirates win their final two games against the Miami Marlins this weekend.
Things didn't go Pittsburgh's way Friday in a 2-0 loss.
Henderson Alvarez spun six scoreless innings. Alvarez (1-1) had an impressive outing, scattering just two hits and a walk while fanning five. It was his first win in his last eight starts, with his last victory coming on Sept. 13, 2012 against Seattle.
Steve Cishek left runners on the corners in the ninth to earn his 21st save of the season.
"He has done a phenomenal job in big situations," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond about Cishek. "He has been able to get some big outs."
Giancarlo Stanton finished 2-for-2 with a solo home run, while Placido Polanco drove in the other run for the Marlins, who have won four of their last five.
Despite surrendering just two earned runs, Jeff Locke (9-3) was saddled with the loss. He allowed eight hits, walked six and recorded a career-high nine strikeouts.
"I felt really good, just the command wasn't there again tonight," Locke admitted.
Gaby Sanchez collected the only extra-base hit for the Pirates, who have lost two in a row.
The Pirates are 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals, a team they will host for four contests at PNC Park starting Monday.
Charlie Morton gets the ball tonight for the Pirates. The right-hander is coming off a win at Washington on Monday when he gave up six hits and three runs over 6 2/3 innings. Morton, who began this season on the disabled list recovering from right elbow surgery performed last year, has been charged with three earned runs or less in six of his first seven starts.
Morton is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in six career starts against the Marlins. In those three losses, the Pirates didn't score a run in any of those contests.
Right-hander Tom Koehler tries to get his first home win of his career when he gets the ball for the Marlins. Koehler is 0-4 in 12 games (5 starts) at his home stadium since breaking into the majors last year.
On the positive side, Koehler is coming off his second win of the season and is 2-0 over his last four appearances. He limited the Rockies to a run over seven frames in a 3-1 win on Monday.
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer has an 11-game hitting streak.
Last year, the Pirates won four of the five games between the clubs. Miami, though, has won 14 of the last 19 encounters.