Should the Pittsburgh Pirates make a run to the World Series, they could have a mental edge over whatever American League opponent is waiting for them.
The Pirates look to sweep the Texas Rangers for the first time in franchise history as the clubs wrap a three-game set on Wednesday afternoon.
Pittsburgh has won 11 of its last 13 interleague games and is 14-5 versus the American League this season, tops in the majors. Wednesday's finale marks the Pirates final interleague contest of the season.
Pittsburgh also had been swept in three of its four all-time series with Texas, including three-game sets in Arlington in 2004 and 2010. However, the Pirates have won a pair of one-run games to open this encounter, holding off a late rally to win 5-4 on Tuesday.
Andrew McCutchen's third RBI of the game in the top of the ninth gave the Pirates a three-run edge and Mark Melancon opened up the bottom of the frame by striking out the first two batters faced. However, he then yielded four straight singles, with base hits by Ian Kinsler and Alex Rios bringing home runs.
Adrian Beltre then came to the plate with the tying run on third, but chased a high fastball to go down swinging and end the game.
"At the end of the day, he struck out the side, with a little action in between," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Melancon.
Pittsburgh, which had lost four in a row ahead of this series, remained a game back of the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central, while Texas is two games behind Oakland for the top spot in the AL West.
The Rangers have lost seven of nine in September after going 20-7 last month and saw starter Martin Perez have his six-start win streak snapped after allowing four runs over five-plus innings.
"We grinded all night, it was just a matter of getting a base hit in the right situation," Texas manager Ron Washington said.
The Rangers have lost a season high-tying four straight series and host the Athletics for three games this weekend after an off day on Thursday.
Chasing his ninth straight season of double-digit wins, A.J. Burnett takes the mound today for the Pirates. He is 7-10 with a 3.31 earned run average in 26 starts this year, but has allowed four runs or more in four of his last six outings.
The veteran righty is coming off a 12-8 setback at St. Louis on Friday, when he lasted a season-low three innings. Burnett was charged with five runs on six hits and one walk.
"I felt like I could have stayed out there longer and kept us in it, but that's not my choice, not my decision," Burnett said.
The 36-year-old has a 2.70 ERA in three interleague starts this season and is 4-3 lifetime versus the Rangers with a 3.66 ERA.
The Rangers counter with right-hander Matt Garza, who is 3-3 with a 4.31 ERA in nine starts since getting dealt from the Chicago Cubs to Texas.
Garza has yielded at least four runs in six of his last seven outings and gave up six runs -- five earned -- over seven frames of a defeat to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday. The big blow was a three-run homer off the bat of Mark Trumbo in the fourth inning as Garza allowed the most runs in a game since the mid-July trade.
"I threw a lot of strikes and got ahead of most hitters, I made one bad pitch," said Garza, who retired the final eight batters he faced in order. "I left one over the plate and Trumbo knew what to do with it."
The 29-year-old is 9-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 20 total starts this season and 1-1 lifetime versus the Pirates with a 3.00 ERA.