The St. Louis Cardinals will aim for their third series sweep of the season when they conclude a three-game road set against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
St. Louis has outscored the Pirates 19-8 in the first two games of a weekend series, including a 12-5 clobbering Saturday.
PNC Park has been hospitable to the Cardinals, who have won six in a row and 16 of their past 18 there.
Regardless of the Sunday outcome, the Pirates will have their streak of six non-losing series (4-0-2) snapped and will lose a series for the first time since they dropped their first two sets during a 1-6 start.
The Pittsburgh bullpen, a stalwart the past few weeks, has given up 11 runs in 7 2/3 innings through the first two games against St. Louis.
“They were really good throughout the month of April,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of his relievers. “That’s one of the things with bullpens — they can be really good and (then) they’re going to hit rough patches.
“We’ve just got to make sure we try to put guys in the right spots and we can get rolling again.”
If the Pirates could ask anything more of their starters, it might be to have, well, better starts. Early on, that is. Pittsburgh has given up 34 first-inning runs, the most in the major leagues.
The effect showed Saturday, when St. Louis took a 4-0 lead in the first, and the Pirates chased the game thereafter.
Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, who hit a three-run homer in the first Saturday, can see the confidence it gives pitchers when they are staked to a lead.
“They can attack the (strike zone) a lot more and really go at these guys,” DeJong said.
In the series finale, St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez (1-4, 4.76 ERA) is scheduled to face off against Pittsburgh right-hander Wil Crowe (0-0, 3.86 ERA).
Martinez seems to be building himself up for the meat of the season. On Tuesday, he pitched a season-high 7 1/3 innings in a win against the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up two runs, one earned, on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
The result also snapped a personal seven-game losing streak. It was his first win as a starter since July 7, 2018.
“I think the Tsunami is coming again,” Martinez said, using his nickname from earlier in his career when he was a two-time All-Star, before he ran into injuries and other trouble and spent a lot of time coming out of the bullpen.
In his past two outings, Martinez has thrown 13 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and three runs (two earned), with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“It’s just good to see him be Carlos,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s got the reset button going.”
Against Pittsburgh, Martinez is 6-6 with a 3.59 ERA in 32 career appearances, including 13 starts.
Crowe, who has never faced St. Louis, will be making his second start and third appearance this season. It will be his fifth career start.
He made a relief appearance in the second game of the season before he was taken off the major league roster. Crowe was recalled on April 25 and started at Minnesota, where he gave up one run in four innings.
–Field Level Media