After up-and-down weekend, Pirates to open series with D-backs

National Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates carry a dubious distinction into Phoenix to start a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The Pirates became the first MLB team to win after rallying from a six-run deficit and then lose the next game after blowing a six-run lead. They came back to defeat the New York Mets 9-7 on Saturday, but then lost 7-6 to the Mets on Sunday after jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning.

The loss prevented Pittsburgh from achieving its first series sweep of the season.

“It is frustrating,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I’m happy that we put ourselves in a position to (sweep) playing as well as we did against the team that’s leading the National League East, but to not finish it, especially after being up, it’s frustrating.”

The Diamondbacks are coming off a 6-4 win Sunday over the Chicago Cubs to avoid getting swept in their first series after the All-Star break.

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo is hoping his team can carry over the momentum of Merrill Kelly’s eight-inning performance, in which he threw only 82 pitches, 63 of them for strikes.

“It’s a belief in the game plan and conviction with his pitches and then trusting the guys around him,” Lovullo said of Kelly’s approach. “It starts and stops with starting pitching each and every night. We know that, and he set a terrific tone for us. He’s locked in right now.”

The Diamondbacks also showed patience at the plate, drawing 11 walks against five Cubs pitchers.

Six walks by two Pirates pitchers in the first six innings Sunday allowed the Mets to gain momentum to make up their 6-0 deficit.

“Walks are going to come back to kill you. and then eventually there in the fourth it hit me,” said Pittsburgh starter JT Brubaker, who had three walks in 3 2/3 innings Sunday. “That’s how baseball works.”

On Monday, Pittsburgh will start right-hander Chase De Jong (1-3, 5.59 ERA) against left-hander Caleb Smith (2-6, 4.54) — both of whom have never faced the other team in their careers.

De Jong, who has 18 career starts, is in his first season in the National League after pitching for the Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros.

Smith is in his fifth season in the majors with 85 appearances and 59 starts, mostly with the Miami Marlins in 2018 and 2019.

Arizona’s lineup has only two at-bats against De Jong, with Eduardo Escobar and Josh Reddick unable to get a hit off him.

Pittsburgh’s Wilmer Difo is 0-for-2 against Smith, while Ben Gamel is 2-for-5 with two RBIs.

The Pirates reinstated right-handed reliever Duane Underwood Jr. from the injured list and optioned right-handed reliever Nick Mears to Triple-A Indianapolis. Underwood has not pitched since July 7 with discomfort on his right side.

Arizona right-handed reliever Taylor Clarke (strained right shoulder/upper back) threw a 19-pitch bullpen session on Saturday. He is 1-0 with a 3.74 ERA in 30 appearances. He was placed on the injured list on June 15.

–Field Level Media

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