Pirates hope to break out of slump against surging Indians

MLB

The Pittsburgh Pirates might need a magic trick Wednesday to end the Cleveland Indians’ four-game winning streak and break out of their own stretch of 12 losses in 14 games this month.

That is, they might need to hold the Indians to two runs or less in the second game of their three-game series at PNC Park.

Cleveland is 11-0 when scoring at least three runs. That got extended Tuesday when the Indians rode a three-run homer from Carlos Santana in the 10th inning for a 6-3 win.

Pittsburgh won’t necessarily need more hits — it had nine Monday — but more production from timely offense to carry out that task. That’s what Cleveland has accomplished this year to complement strong pitching.

Entering the series, these two clubs had the lowest team batting averages in the major leagues, .211 for the Pirates and .203 for the Indians.

“We’ve got to figure ways to finish games out, and we’ve got to figure out ways to execute,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said.

Cleveland is conducting this series without manager Terry Francona, who is from Pittsburgh suburb New Brighton. Francona is undergoing a scheduled medical procedure to address gastrointestinal issues. First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. is managing this series on an interim basis.

“When you have a great baseball mind like Sandy, it’s easy to hand over the reins to him and have him step in seamlessly,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said.

Tuesday, Cleveland right-hander Aaron Civale (2-2, 3.60 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh left-hander Steven Brault (0-0, 5.14 ERA).

Brault, on the bubble to be in the rotation before the season, will make his fourth start and fifth appearance, thanks to mounting injuries among Pittsburgh pitchers. He has been used some in piggyback situations with Chad Kuhl, but that seems to be on hold, also because of the absences.

He had been scheduled to start Saturday at Cincinnati before that game was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. In his most recent start, Aug. 9 against Detroit, he pitched two scoreless innings.

Brault has indicated he believes he is more effective with consistency, and he has had a lot of talks with Shelton about how he is to be used.

“We had a good conversation (last week) about how it’s been clear what my role has been,” Brault said. “Even though because of (injuries) and stuff, it’s kind of had to not be totally consistent, it’s still been clear, made clear to me, what it was going to be, all the time, and I really appreciate that, and I know he’s big into taking our person into account in what we need.”

In his only career appearance against Cleveland, Brault pitched one inning, giving up one run.

Civale will be facing the Pirates for the first time.

He snapped a three-start road losing streak Friday when he gave up eight hits and four runs, with three strikeouts and one walk, in six innings during a 10-5 win over Detroit.

“I didn’t feel like I had my complete repertoire in any one inning,” Civale said of that win. “It was kind of scattered throughout the game which innings had which pitches. That’s going to happen. I just went out there and did my best to keep us in the game.”

–Field Level Media

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