The Pittsburgh Pirates, locked into last place in the National League Central, seem to be trying to end the season with a bang. Or a few bangs.
After nine straight losses, Pittsburgh swept the Chicago Cubs, helping ensure they would miss the playoffs.
Then on Friday, the Pirates (69-91) opened their final series of the season by beating the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 on a walk-off two-run homer by Kevin Newman with two out in the bottom of the ninth. It was his second home run of the game.
The Pirates — who erased a 4-0 deficit Friday, then fell behind 5-4 before pulling out the game — are 8-0 at PNC Park against Cincinnati this year and are 16-2 against the Reds in Pittsburgh dating to the start of the 2018 season.
The Reds (73-87), locked into one spot above the Pirates in the division, will be trying to salvage a couple wins in the final two games of the season. They have lost five straight overall.
In the middle game of the series Saturday, Cincinnati right-hander Lucas Sims (2-1, 4.39 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander James Marvel (0-3, 10.22 ERA).
Right-hander Trevor Bauer originally was slated to start Saturday for the Reds, but that got pushed back to Sunday because he has been ill. So Sims’ assignment is considered to be part of a bullpen game.
Sims was promoted just after the All-Star break and has made three starts and 20 relief appearances.
“I think Lucas has the stuff to be a starter or a reliever,” Reds manager David Bell said recently. “It’s not easy to necessarily make that transition at the major league level. He’s been able to do it just because he’s confident and he believes in himself. He’s done a good job coming out of the bullpen because of that more than anything.”
Sims could get a chance to compete for a spot in the rotation next season.
He is 1-0 with a 5.48 ERA in four career games, one start, against Pittsburgh.
Marvel, 26, has lost all three of his major league starts, most recently Sept. 21 when he gave up five runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings, with three strikeouts and two walks, against Milwaukee.
Marvel somewhat lived up to his name during his time in the minor leagues this year. Between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, he was a combined 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 28 starts. He was named the Pirates’ minor league pitcher of the year.
That win total, ERA and strikeout number led all Pirates prospects with at least 100 innings pitched, and the 16 wins also led all the minor leagues.
He’ll get one last shot at his first big league win this year.
“I’m happy to be here, but I’m not just happy to be here,” Marvel told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “First and foremost, I have to figure out how to get guys out and try to put our team in position to get wins here in September.
“Then, whatever happens, hopefully, I’m putting myself in a good position to impact the club next year.”
Marvel will be facing the Reds for the first time.
–Field Level Media