If the first two games of a series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Arizona Diamondbacks are any indication, the long ball might come into play in the rubber game Sunday.
On Friday, Arizona hit five homers in an 8-6 win. On Saturday, Jack Suwinski hit a walk-off, two-run homer in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory.
The Pirates would seem to have the momentum after scoring three runs in the ninth inning on Friday to make things close and then getting the come-from-behind win on Saturday after what had been a pitching duel.
“That was a heck of a victory,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said, adding of his players, “They continue to battle.
“We put ourselves in a situation (Friday) to tie the game and we made them bring in (closer Mark) Melancon. I don’t know if that has any effect on anything, but it’s important when things like that happen because of the domino effect in the series.”
The Diamondbacks brought in Melancon again to pitch the ninth Saturday with a shutout intact, and he gave up the winning homer and perhaps took himself out of consideration for pitching a third day in a row Sunday if things are tight late.
The Pirates have won four of their past five games, though the boost they got from their rousing series sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles before the Arizona series might have faded away if they were looking at possibly being swept in the current series.
As for the Diamondbacks, Ketel Marte remained hot during the Saturday loss. He went 2-for-4, collecting half of the team’s hits and extending his career-best hitting streak to 16 games. Marte also scored Arizona’s only run.
On the flip side, the Pirates shut down Christian Walker, whose home run Friday gave him eight in a 17-game stretch. On Saturday, he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
“When you get evaluated on your game results, (homers are) where the focus tends to go,” Walker said.
Arizona wasted a gem by starter Zach Davies, who pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings Saturday, and the team missed a chance to reach .500.
In the series finale, Arizona right-hander Zac Gallen (4-0, 2.32 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Zach Thompson (2-4, 5.18).
Gallen has five no-decisions to go with his four wins. His latest victory came Monday, when he gave up two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves. He struck out six and walked two.
That game came after Arizona was swept in four games by the Dodgers, and the Diamondbacks were up front about looking to Gallen to step up as a stopper.
“I told him it’s an honor to have that role of you’re the guy that they’re going to give the ball to right out of a skid,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “It’s your turn to put a stop to that.”
On the road, Gallen is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA, a .167 opponents’ batting average and a 0.85 WHIP.
He has never faced Pittsburgh.
Thompson, who likewise has not pitched against the Diamondbacks, has allowed no more than two earned runs in four of his past five starts, including his last time out. He did not get a decision Monday against the Dodgers, when he gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media