The Pittsburgh Pirates' offense has disappeared during a dismal stretch. They're hoping a matchup with Shelby Miller will help snap their slump.
Pittsburgh has fared well against him in the past and will try to turn things around Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Pirates (9-14), losers of six of seven, have tallied two runs or fewer in four of five. They're coming off three straight losses to Cincinnati, getting limited to four runs and 16 hits while going 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position. Pedro Alvarez's first-inning RBI single in Thursday's 2-1 loss accounted for the lone hit in those situations.
Andrew McCutchen has been one of the few bright spots lately, going 8 for 13 with three homers in the four-game series against the Reds.
"We can't worry about where we are right now," said McCutchen, who owns a .483 on-base percentage during a seven-game hitting streak versus St. Louis. "We know we're going to be better. We're going to learn as a team and keep pushing forward."
Pittsburgh took two of three at home from the Cardinals (12-11) from April 4-6, including a 12-2 victory in the opener against Miller (1-2, 3.57 ERA). He yielded five runs and a career-worst three homers in 5 1-3 innings. Miller has lost all five of his starts against the Pirates with a 5.93 ERA and has allowed at least two home runs in four straight. Alvarez is just 3 for 14 off him but all three hits were homers.
Miller gave up four hits in 5 1-3 scoreless innings of a 3-2 loss at Washington on Sunday, striking out seven.
Gerrit Cole (2-1, 3.67), who limited St. Louis to two runs over seven innings opposite Miller on April 4, makes his first start since playing a part in a controversial dustup in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Cole took exception to Carlos Gomez stopping to admire his third-inning triple. The situation devolved into a bench-clearing skirmish when Gomez approached Cole. Pittsburgh's Travis Snider and Russell Martin are appealing suspensions for their roles in the incident, while Cole received no penalty.
"I don't want to sit here and not take blame," Cole, who gave up a run over eight innings, told the team's website. "But neither do I want to say I went over there to try to incite a fight."
Cole is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two road starts after going 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA in seven last year.
The Cardinals have dropped six of nine and are coming off a 5-6 road trip, ending with Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Mets. It marked their eighth straight game without a home run.
Yadier Molina received a day of rest but comes into this series touting a career best-matching 14-game hitting streak. He's hit .429 with six doubles during the streak but is batting .149 over his last 13 contests versus Pittsburgh.
Matt Carpenter, whose two-run homer accounted for St. Louis' only runs against Cole three weeks ago, is hitting .396 over his last 12 against the Pirates with nine extra-base hits.
Starling Marte has hit safely in 17 of his 18 career games in the series with four triples.
The Cardinals, who have won five of six against the Pirates in St. Louis, have played only six of their first 23 games at Busch Stadium.
"We've been home six days in the past 2 1/2 months," starter Lance Lynn said. "I think a lot of people are looking forward to getting home and sleeping in their own beds."