The Pittsburgh Pirates have two more head-to-head meetings with the visiting Cincinnati Reds as they try to claw their way out of the National League Central cellar.
In the opener of the teams’ final series this year, the Pirates came back from an early two-run deficit to top the Reds 8-3 on Monday.
That left the magic number for Cincinnati (60-94) to hold off Pittsburgh (57-97) and finish out of last place in the division at six.
Both clubs also are striving to finish out of last in the NL, with the Washington Nationals (53-100) the, uh, front-runner there.
At this late stage, the Pirates — who had lost nine of 10 before Monday — are looking toward the future. That not only pertains to several rookies and other young players who have gotten a chance to play this year, but also to new acquisitions.
On Monday, the focus was on designated hitter Miguel Andujar, who made his Pittsburgh debut after being snatched off waivers from the New York Yankees.
Andujar has a higher pedigree than most of the players who have come and gone from the Pirates’ roster this season. He turned heads in his first full major league season in 2018, finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year balloting, but then had injury setbacks and got lost in the Yankees’ organization.
In the Monday win over Cincinnati, Andujar singled, walked, scored a run and picked up an RBI with a sacrifice fly.
“Good swings, aggressive,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “Overall, good impression.”
Andujar had no objection to going from a playoff team to a struggling franchise.
“I’m super happy to be here,” he said. “They have a good group of guys here. … I’m happy the Pirates want me here.”
The Reds have lost five straight against the Pirates and four of their past five games overall. They were held to five hits on Monday — albeit two were homers by TJ Friedl and Aristides Aquino — and helped Pittsburgh with two errors.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati right-hander Hunter Greene (4-13, 4.91 ERA) is expected to start against Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (5-12, 3.99).
Greene will be making his third start since spending six weeks on the injured list because of a shoulder strain. He is 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 19 strikeouts in his two starts since being activated, but Reds manager David Bell expects more.
“Still kind of working his way back,” Bell said.
Greene’s only appearance against the Pirates came on May 15, when he took the loss in a 1-0 game after giving up that lone run but no hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked five.
Keller is 3-6 with a 2.71 ERA over his past 13 outings, and he has given up three earned runs or fewer in 17 of his past 20 starts. In his past two starts, the Pirates scored just one run each time during the six innings that he was on the mound.
On Thursday, Keller gave up two runs on four hits in six innings in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
Against Cincinnati, Keller is 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA in 10 career starts, including 0-1 with a 10.00 ERA in two starts this year.
–Field Level Media