The Pittsburgh Pirates return from an unintended break to face one of the better pitchers in the majors at the moment.
Looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat, the visiting Pirates open a four-game series against Anthony DeSclafani and the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
A winner of just three games this season and only one over the last 11 contests, Pittsburgh returns to the diamond for the first time since being swept in a three-game home set by Detroit following a 2-1 loss on Sunday.
That’s because Pittsburgh’s three-game series at St. Louis this week was postponed due to the Cardinals’ continued issues with COVID-19.
“It’s just one of those things, man,” Pirates relief pitcher Chris Stratton told the club’s official website. “It’s unfortunate how everything has played out so far. … Just have to be ready to go whenever the number is called.”
That appears to be Thursday in Cincinnati, where a Pirates club batting just .209 on the season and averaging 3.0 runs while going 1-7 on the road face a potentially daunting task against DeSclafani (1-0, 0.00 ERA).
In two starts, the Reds right-hander has yielded just five hits with one walk over 11 scoreless innings.
The right-hander gave up two of those hits and fanned six over six innings of a 4-1 win at Milwaukee on Saturday.
“He’s always been very, very nasty,” teammate and fellow starting pitcher Sonny Gray told the Reds’ official website of DeSclafani. “He’s figured himself out and what type of pitcher he is on the mound.
“He’s very confident in himself. When he’s confident in himself and enjoying it, he’s pretty impossible to hit.”
DeSclafani, though, is just 2-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 13 career starts against the Pirates, and last beat them in June 2018. Pittsburgh slugger Josh Bell has been quite good against him, batting .353 (6 for 17) with two doubles and a home run.
Bell, though, is hitting just .213 with two homers and 20 strikeouts this season.
On the mound, Pittsburgh turns to Trevor Williams (0-3, 3.52 ERA), who needs his teammates to provide some offensive support. In his three 2020 starts, the Pirates have totaled just one run while he’s been in the game.
It was especially frustrating in his most recent start on Aug. 5, when Williams allowed one run and three hits over seven innings of a 5-2 loss versus Minnesota. Pittsburgh did not score until the ninth inning of that contest.
The right-hander, though, won’t place blame on his teammates for his lack of run support.
“We know that we’re playing for each other, and we know that despite our record, our clubhouse is good,” Williams told the Pirates’ official website. “We know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and we know that we’re continuing to fight.”
Williams has been strong against the Reds, going 5-1 with a 2.03 ERA in nine career starts. Yet, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto is hitting .400 (10 for 25) against him, and Nick Castellanos .364 (4 for 11).
Castellanos went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Reds’ 5-4 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday. After batting .366 in his first 12 games, Castellanos is 3-for-25 (.120) in the last six.
–Field Level Media