It’s funny how things work sometimes, and right now the Pittsburgh Pirates are the jovial ones after two straight walk-off wins over the visiting San Francisco Giants.
The fourth and final game of the series at PNC Park is Sunday, and the Giants, who won the opener Thursday, are guaranteed they won’t win the series. Again.
San Francisco arrived in Pittsburgh in first place in the National League West and nosing around the top of the overall standings, going into a series against a team struggling (3-10 in its previous 13) and last in the NL Central.
Now the Pirates are a win away from going 4-1 in their past five series against the Giants and are 26-17 against them dating to 2017.
“Guys are having good at-bats,” said Pittsburgh catcher Jacob Stallings, who hit a walk-off two-run homer in the ninth Saturday for an 8-6 win. “We (had just been) leaving runners on base, and (the past two games) we were able to get enough of them in.”
In the series finale, San Francisco left-hander Alex Wood (4-0, 1.80 ERA) is slated to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (2-4, 7.81 ERA).
Monday against Texas, Wood tied a season high by going seven innings. He gave up one run and four hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Not surprisingly, Wood called that game “a blast, man. That was a fun baseball game for us.”
Wood has not given up more than two runs or four hits in any of his five starts this year.
“I love Alex’s pace,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Three of our initiatives as a pitching department are push the pace, pound the zone and know your plan. He pushes the pace as well as anybody. I think he makes hitters uncomfortable as a result.
“He’s just been excellent all year. It seems like the bigger the moment is in the game, the more he bears down. His intensity level from the beginning to the end of his outings has been very consistent. Not over the top, just the right amount of intensity to stay composed and under control, make pitches and work fast.”
Wood has averaged 19.9 seconds between pitches this year, according to the team website.
Wood is 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 10 games against Pittsburgh, nine of them starts.
Consistency with his control continues to plague Keller. His most recent start, Monday against Cincinnati, was a loss as he allowed seven runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings, with two walks and two strikeouts, in a 14-1 Pittsburgh loss.
Keller needed just 12 pitches to get the first five outs, but then things fell apart, including one out while facing eight Reds in the fourth.
He has been trying recently to have a short memory — “Good or bad, you’ve just got to think about the next pitch, no matter what,” he said — but that didn’t work when things started to go bad against Cincinnati.
“In the big leagues, when you don’t hit locations, you end up being in the middle of the plate,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “You get yourself in trouble.”
Keller has made one career start against the Giants, Sept. 10, 2019. He gave up five runs in five innings in a 5-4 Pittsburgh loss at San Francisco.
–Field Level Media