(Photo credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports)
The Pittsburgh Pirates will look to continue their role of spoiler on Saturday evening when they visit the Cincinnati Reds in the second contest of a three-game series.
The Pirates (73-81) hit four solo homers on Friday in a 7-5 victory over the Reds (79-76) in the series opener.
The Reds willsend rookie right-hander Connor Phillips (1-0, 5.74 ERA) to the mound on Saturday. The Reds have won all three of the 22-year-old Phillips' previous starts.
Last Monday, Phillips held the Minnesota Twins to two runs and three hits over seven innings in a 7-3 win.
The Pirates on Saturday will counter with lefty Bailey Falter (2-9, 4.58), who will make his seventh start since coming to Pittsburgh in a trade-deadline deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Falter lasted just an inning on Tuesday in the 14-1 loss to the Cubs in Chicago, allowing two runs, walking two and striking out one.
The Pirates have won nine of their last 13 on the road and 15 of 23 overall. They've won series against Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs in that stretch.
And it was after Thursday's 8-6 win against the Cubs that Chicago manager David Ross called Pittsburgh's roster "not high caliber."
"We can fight," said Pirates catcher Endy Rodriguez, who did not hear those comments. "We don't have the best team in the league, but we still have the talent to fight for the playoffs."
Rodriguez was one of the four Pirates to unload with a solo homer in Friday's win in Cincinnati, mashing a tape-measure shot to the power stacks in right field.
The Pirates will be without one of their best setup men the rest of the season, as right-hander Colin Holderman landed on the 15-day injured list with a right thumb sprain.
The Reds are in desperate straits, entering Saturday with a three-game losing streak and falling 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the third and final wild-card spot in the National League. The Reds had leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 5-4 before succumbing to the Pirates on Friday.
Cincinnati had runners on first and second base to begin in the ninth before Christian Encarnacion-Strand grounded into a double play. Another rookie, Noelvi Marte, struck out to end the game against Pirates closer David Bednar.
"I think we have to hold on, hold our heads up," said rookie Andrew Abbott, who started Friday's game. "We're playing really good baseball. A few things didn't go our way with a few hits and whatever else. That's just baseball, really."
TJ Friedl homered, went 2-for-2 and had two RBIs and three walks in Friday's loss.
"We had every opportunity. We hit them, they hit back, and it was one of those games that is back and forth," Friedl said of Friday's game. "This doesn't change our mentality at all. There's still seven games left. So we're going to play each game to the fullest, just like (Friday)."
The Reds soon could get a boost to their lineup. Star rookie infielder Matt McLain (right oblique) is expected to go on rehab on Saturday and Sunday and possibly be available for Tuesday's opener to a two-game series in Cleveland.
--Field Level Media