The struggling Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping a return home can improve their fortunes. They're also hoping that some extra rest will give a boost to rookie Gerrit Cole.
Cole will make his first start in eight days Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks looking to help the Pirates match their longest home win streak of the season.
Pittsburgh (71-49) earned just one win on its six-game trek, 5-1 against St. Louis on Wednesday, and closed out that trip with a 6-5 defeat in 12 innings the next day. The loss cut the Pirates' NL Central lead over the Cardinals to two games but they're looking to add to that advantage during a brief stay at home.
Pittsburgh has won five straight - and 12 of 15 - at PNC Park and should have a refreshed Cole on the mound for the series opener against Arizona (62-57). The Pirates used Monday's off day to give their right-hander a break and try to limit his innings.
"We prefer ... (for Cole not) to leave the game after five innings, but pick our spots," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's website. "The way we mapped it out for him, he'll make three starts through the end of the month instead of four. We knocked an entire start out, knocked another 100 pitches off the plate. We'll look to trim in other places as well."
Cole (5-5, 3.95 ERA) gave up a career-high four runs over five innings in his most recent start Aug. 8 against Miami, but he avoided a third straight loss when his teammates rallied to force extra innings in a 5-4 win. He has lost five of his last six decisions after winning each of his first four starts.
Cole will make his first start against an Arizona team that used three late comebacks for a home sweep of Baltimore earlier this week. The Diamondbacks, however, couldn't make a dent in their 7 1/2-game deficit to the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
Aaron Hill had the winning and tying singles in a 5-4 victory in 14 innings Wednesday, his sixth multihit performance in the last seven games. Arizona trailed after the sixth inning in all three matchups with the Orioles and rallied from a three-run deficit in the series finale.
"These three games are bringing the confidence a little bit up," infielder Martin Prado told the team's website. "We were a little bit down, but actually we're starting to believe we can do this, keep battling until the end."
Brandon McCarthy (2-6, 4.73) will seek to snap a three-game skid with a better performance against Pittsburgh. The right-hander has allowed two runs in each of his two outings since returning from inflammation in his pitching shoulder but he's received a combined one run of support.
He lasted seven innings in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday.
McCarthy was tagged for six runs and a season-high 10 hits over 6 2-3 innings in his only start against the Pirates, a 6-5 loss April 9. Pittsburgh will try to get to him again while recording its first six-game home win streak since May 19-30.
Garrett Jones went 3 for 4 against McCarthy in April, and Starling Marte and Neil Walker each had two-run hits. Walker had a nine-game hit streak snapped Thursday.
Marte was 6 for 13 (.462) with two doubles and a triple as Pittsburgh won two of three in Arizona from April 8-10.