The Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting San Francisco Giants, who open a three-game series Friday, are each coming off a streak-ending game, but in opposite situations.
The Giants had won five in a row before dropping a series finale Wednesday against Kansas City 3-2, while the Pirates snapped a season-long nine-game losing skid Wednesday with a 6-4 win at St. Louis.
San Francisco, which is opening a seven-game, two-stop road trip, got a boost Wednesday in spite of the loss when Brandon Belt made his first start since May 18.
Belt, who got a hit by a pitch as a pinch-hitter a night earlier, was the Giants’ designated hitter Wednesday, going 1 for 3 with his fifth homer in 28 games and a walk.
“It was a jolt just to see him in the dugout and taking down the at-bats,” San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler said. “That’s a big boost of confidence.”
Belt dealt with right knee inflammation that lingered and had to be drained twice.
“I knew there was an imminent return,” Belt said. “It really just kind of flips a switch in your brain sometimes when you know you’re coming back. You kind of get in that mode where you get excited and you get the adrenaline pumping a little bit. There was a time that it was pretty tough for me mentally because there was no set timetable, and I didn’t know when I was going to be back. That was the tough part. But the last few days, I turned the corner physically.”
Pittsburgh’s boost Wednesday came in simply getting a win after dropping the first seven games of a trip to Atlanta and St. Louis.
“It was a tough road trip for us,” Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds told AT&T Sportsnet. “To grind one out and end the road trip with (a win), it’s big.”
Reynolds, who had a slow start with a .212 average, five homers and 12 RBIs through the first two months of the season, can’t be blamed for Pittsburgh’s recent struggles. On the eight-game road trip, he had three homers among 15 hits and drove in seven runs.
“He got off to a rough start, and I think on the road trip we saw the Bryan Reynolds we all expected to see,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
In the series opener Friday, San Francisco left-hander Carlos Rodon (5-4, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Zach Thompson (3-4, 4.50 ).
Rodon is coming off a 2-0 win Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he pitched six scoreless, two-hit innings and struck out eight to help the Giants complete a sweep.
“I thought he did a really nice job of attacking the zone with his fastball,” Kapler said. “His fastball obviously had good carry. It got stronger as the outing went on.”
Rodon is 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh.
Thompson, who has never faced the Giants, is coming off a no-decision Sunday when he allowed two runs in five innings and was in line for a win when he left the game.
He has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven starts.
–Field Level Media