The Pittsburgh Pirates are picking the wrong time to start slumping and will try to earn a series win Sunday versus the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of a three-game set at PNC Park.
The Pirates have lost six of their last eight games to watch their lead atop the NL Central standings dwindle down to two games ahead of St. Louis.
Pittsburgh defeated Arizona in Friday's series opener, but dropped a 15-5 decision last night no thanks to starting pitcher Jeff Locke. Locke was battered for eight runs and 10 hits in just 2 2/3 innings. Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris permitted a combined seven runs in relief.
"Whatever it is you got that day you have to go out and compete with it," Locke said. "Was today a reality check and eye-opener for me? Absolutely."
Pedro Alvarez hit a three-run homer and Starling Marte went deep for the Pirates, who will start a seven-game western swing Monday against San Diego and San Francisco.
Charlie Morton will handle pitching duties for the Buccos Sunday and he has won three of his last four decisions. Morton, though, did not factor in the outcome of a 4-3 loss at St. Louis on Tuesday and tossed six strong innings of two-run ball. Morton is 4-3 in 11 starts with a 3.79 earned run average and 2-1 in four lifetime matchups with a 5.14 ERA against Arizona.
The D'backs have been playing well again with wins in seven of the last 10 games. They are 1-1 so far on this 10-game trek and broke out the bats Saturday in the Steel City with 20 hits.
Martin Prado was 4-for-5 with a home run, four runs scored and three RBI, Paul Goldschmidt recorded three hits, including a homer, three RBI and scored twice and Didi Gregorius ended 3-for-4 with two RBI for the Diamondbacks, who are five games off a wild card spot and 8 1/2 games behind Los Angeles for the NL West lead. Wil Nieves drove in three runs in the victory.
"This is the beginning of what we should do from now on," Prado said. "Everybody contributed today. We're hoping to have this offense all the way through the end of the season."
Trevor Cahill was activated off the disabled list prior to the game and earned the win despite giving up four runs in five innings.
Arizona still has Cincinnati and Philadelphia to visit, but hopes Wade Miley can pitch the club to a series win against the Pirates Sunday. The D'backs have won each of Miley's last four starts and he is 3-0 in that time. Miley did not figure into the decision of a 7-6 win over Baltimore on Monday and was reached for four runs in seven innings.
Miley, who owns a 9-8 mark with a 3.63 ERA in 24 starts, defeated the Pirates with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball in a 10-2 triumph April 10. Miley has made three career starts against Pittsburgh, going 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA.
The Pirates took two of three from the D'backs in Arizona back in April.