Phillies aim to sweep reeling Pirates

The Sports Xchange

July 07, 2018 at 6:47 pm.

It’s down to picking their poison for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have lost five games in a row going into Sunday’s series finale at PNC Park against the cruising Philadelphia Phillies.

During the first four games of their skid, the Pirates were outscored 48-13. It’s a matter of perspective whether lopsided losses are more painful than the 3-2 game they dropped Saturday when they took an early two-run lead only to have the Phillies stack together three straight two-out hits in the seventh for a comeback win.

“This one hurts,” said Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon, who had a quality start Saturday but still lost.

The Pirates (40-48) are 14-31 since May 17.

Philadelphia (49-37) has won six straight and eight of nine to keep hold of first place in the National League East by percentage points.

“We play like a family. We help each other and all that,” Jorge Alfaro said of the Phillies’ 28th come-from-behind win, one in which he drove in the go-ahead run. “We never quit. We fight for games. We never get down or quit.”

The Phillies will be going for their first series sweep at PNC Park on Sunday.

Rookie right-hander Drew Anderson is expected to be promoted from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make his first appearance of 2018 and his first major league start for Philadelphia. He will face Pittsburgh rookie righty Nick Kingham (2-4, 4.70 ERA).

In two relief appearances last season, Anderson had a 23.14 ERA, giving up seven runs and six hits in 2 1/3 innings. His claim to fame was striking out the Angels’ Mike Trout in his major league debut.

“It was a rush. It was fun. … It was a good experience,” Anderson told Philly.com then. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

Anderson, 24, was a 21st-round draft pick who has come back from Tommy John surgery.

He was put on the 40-man roster in fall 2016, prompting him to tell NBC Sports Philadelphia the next spring: “I was so pumped, I busted out 50 pushups.”

Pittsburgh could make a roster move, too. Catcher Francisco Cervelli could come off the concussion disabled list Sunday, according to manager Clint Hurdle.

Cervelli is one of the team’s spark plugs.

Kingham would be less likely savior for struggling Pittsburgh.

While his credentials with Triple-A Indianapolis this season are strong — 4-2, 2.65 ERA in 10 starts — he is in his fourth stint with the Pirates this season and has lost his past four big-league decisions after winning the first two.

Kingham, 26, who has never faced the Phillies, got hit hard and had a miserable night in his last start for Pittsburgh, a 17-1 loss Monday at Los Angeles. He gave up seven runs (five earned) and eight hits in three innings.

In the first inning of that game, Kingham missed a toss at first base, committed a balk, gave up an RBI swinging bunt and allowed a run when he missed catcher Elias Diaz’s toss back to the mound.

“I think it was what started everything. I think it just kind of kick-started how the night ended up going,” Kingham said.

“I don’t know if I’ll do too much about it. It’s over. I don’t like looking at the bad stuff because I don’t need to relive the bad stuff. I like looking at the good stuff and looking in the direction that I’m heading. I think I’ll flush it, wash it off in the shower and come back to get prepared for my next start.”