The Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Arizona Diamondbacks open a three-game series Monday embroiled in what appears to be a four-team race approaching the stretch run of the season.
Not for a division title or postseason berth, however.
The Pirates and Diamondbacks are in solid contention for the worst record in the majors, along with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.
The outcome of the series at PNC Park could help determine which club will bring up the rear in baseball and claim the top draft pick next year.
Both teams have come by their downtrodden records honestly.
Pittsburgh is coming off a 2-4 road trip, is 4-16 in its past 20 games and 8-24 in its past 32.
Arizona is 1-2 to start a 10-day trip, although it is coming off an 8-4 win Sunday at Colorado. The Diamondbacks snuck in a three-game sweep against Philadelphia last week but otherwise are 6-11 in August.
The Diamondbacks swept a three-game home series against Pittsburgh last month and are 15-2 against the Pirates since 2018.
It’s worth noting that Arizona catcher Daulton Varsho, a second-year player, is coming in hot. He was a single shy of hitting for the cycle Sunday, giving him homers in two straight games and 11 for his career, one more than his father, Gary, hit in 571 games over eight seasons.
“He’ll probably be pretty thrilled about it; he hit some pretty good homers himself,” Daulton Varsho said.
Pittsburgh was shut out 3-0 Sunday at St. Louis, missing a chance to sweep the Cardinals.
It would be timely to take three in a row against Arizona, which sits 2 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh entering the series, but the Pirates are 0-9 in games where they could have completed a sweep.
“Obviously, we’ve had trouble finishing (a sweep), but I don’t think there’s any mental component to that at all,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said.
Pittsburgh, according to multiple reports, placed struggling outfielder Gregory Polanco, their last link to the club’s 2015 wild-card team, on outright waivers.
Meanwhile, Pirates outfielder Anthony Alford (back spasms) is eligible to come off the injured list Monday, and general manager Ben Cherington said Alford is expected to be activated.
In the series opener, Arizona right-hander Humberto Mejia is slated to make his season debut against Pittsburgh right-hander Wil Crowe (3-7, 5.23 ERA).
Mejia, who was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his first three major league starts last year while with Miami, is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Reno to make a spot start, it was announced after Sunday’s game.
With Reno, he made 12 starts, compiling a 5.93 ERA.
He has not faced Pittsburgh.
Crowe, who has never faced the Diamondbacks, has lost his past two decisions but is coming off a no-decision Tuesday at Los Angeles, when he gave up two runs and five hits, with two walks and four strikeouts in four innings in a game the Dodgers won 4-2.
He drove up his pitch count working out of jams in each of the first two innings but wasn’t unhappy with the outing.
“Any game, you’re going to take stuff out of,” Crowe said. “I think each outing you take lessons from different things. My stuff was playing. … It was playing well.”
–Field Level Media