Lowly Pirates go for 3 straight vs. Reds

Field Level Media

August 25, 2019 at 6:42 am.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be going for a series sweep Sunday against the visiting Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park, and that would an occasion to mark.

The Pirates have not swept a series since they won a three-game weekend set against San Diego June 21-23. They also haven’t won as many as three in a row since the first three days of July.

Pittsburgh has won the first two games of this series in disparate fashion, getting a walk-off 3-2 win Friday followed by a 14-0 blowout Saturday.

The latter was a breakout game on offense for the Pirates, who had scored a combined 10 runs over their previous seven games, including two shutout losses.

“We’ve got a great core group of guys. We’re just trying to continue to build momentum for the rest of this season and working into next season,” Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell, whose three-run homer Saturday put him over the 100-RBI mark at 102, told AT&T Sportsnet.

Cincinnati, which had won two straight entering the series, won’t be getting help from first baseman Joey Votto. He is eligible to come off the injured list (back) Sunday, but manager David Bell said that while Votto is getting close to a return, he won’t be ready for the series finale.

On Sunday, Cincinnati right-hander Trevor Bauer (10-10, 4.06 ERA) is scheduled to face right-hander Dario Agrazal (2-3, 4.09).

Bauer will be making his fifth appearance since being acquired by the Reds in a three-team deal at the July 31 trade deadline. In his first four starts, he is 1-2 with a 5.87 ERA.

On Monday, he took the loss in a 3-2 game against San Diego despite striking out 11 in seven innings. He gave up three runs, two of them earned, and five hits.

It was an outing that gave David Bell reason to be optimistic.

“It was around the middle of the game, and it’s like, ‘Wow, he’s really finding it right here.’ He found a good rhythm,” Bell said. “One of these games we’ll have a lead and we’ll get to see him finish one of these things and throw 130 pitches. We know he’s capable of it, but we had to hit for him again (to try to get some runs). You saw him get locked in, so at least he had the opportunity to find that. Hopefully, he can take that into his next start.”

Bauer ranks first in the majors with 179 2/3 innings pitched and fourth with 215 strikeouts.

He has won both of his career starts against the Pirates, one in 2015 and one last year, with a 1.35 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings.

Agrazal made his last appearance in relief — he retired all six Washington Nationals batters he faced Wednesday just after his latest recall from Triple-A Indianapolis — but with injuries to starters, most recently Chris Archer, the rookie is getting a chance to prove he deserves a shot at being a rotation regular.

This will be his ninth start after going 2-3 with a 4.29 ERA in the first eight. However, he has lost his past three starts, giving up seven homers in 14 innings.

Agrazal has made one start against Cincinnati, taking the loss July 31 in a 4-1 game when he gave up a solo homer to Jesse Winker and a two-run shot to Eugenio Suarez.