The Arizona Diamondbacks have had a flair for the dramatic of late, and they'll turn their attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday for the opener of a three-game set at PNC Park.
Arizona swept Baltimore at home this week, as all three games were decided by just one run and all three ended in walkoff fashion, including two that went to extra innings. The Diamondbacks have won a major league-best 26 games in their last at-bat this season.
"These three games are bringing the confidence a little bit up," infielder Martin Prado said. "We were a little bit down, but actually we're starting to believe we can do this, keep battling until the end."
Arizona entered Friday 7 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West and six games out in the wild card race. On Wednesday, the D'backs claimed a 5-4 win in 14 innings thanks to Aaron Hill, who tied the game in the ninth with a single and ended it in the bottom of the 14th on a grounder up the middle.
The Pirates were swept in Colorado last weekend, and they followed that up by losing two of three in St. Louis this week. Still, Pittsburgh maintains a two- game cushion over St. Louis in the National League Central, while Cincinnati sits 2 1/2 games back.
On Thursday, the Pirates suffered a 6-5 extra-innings loss to the Cardinals as Matt Holliday delivered a walkoff single in the 12th for the Redbirds.
The Pirates are happy to be back at PNC Park, where their 41 home victories are second in the majors behind Atlanta's 42. After just wrapping up a six- game road swing, the team is making a brief pit stop home before hitting the road again for six more.
"We get to go play in front of our crowd for three days, sleep in our beds, and wear the whites. I like the little break before we head back out," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Rookie hurler Gerrit Cole, the top overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, will make his first start in eight days after being skipped in the rotation because of Monday's off day. The 22-year-old is 5-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 11 starts. Cole allowed a season-high four earned runs in five innings of work against Miami on Sunday.
"The way we mapped it out for him, he'll make three starts through the end of the month instead of four," Hurdle said of the plan to skip Cole. "We knocked an entire start out, knocked another 100 pitches off the plate. We'll look to trim in other places as well."
The D'backs are kicking off a 10-game road swing with seven games against postseason hopefuls Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Brandon McCarthy makes his third start since coming off the disabled list with a shoulder injury that cost him two months. He is coming off a seven-inning outing against the New York Mets his last time out, in which he yielded two earned runs on six hits.
"Today was good, just from the standpoint of I needed to get past that wall," McCarthy said. "Rehab appearances, you're on a set pitch limit so you kind of pitch up to that, and you kind of saw in Boston I got to a certain point and sort of hit the cliff."
The Pirates took two of three from the D'backs in Arizona back in April.