While the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins showed signs of improvement at the plate, they might have a more difficult time against two of baseball's top young pitchers.
The Pirates look for their sixth win in eight games Sunday when Gerrit Cole opposes All-Star Jose Fernandez in battle of impressive rookies in Miami.After getting shut out by the Marlins (39-63) on Friday, Pittsburgh (61-41) bounced back by scoring seven runs for the second time in three games in Saturday's 7-4 victory.Catcher Michael McKenry filled in nicely for the injured Russell Martin with a career-high four hits and two RBIs, while Neil Walker added three hits and two RBIs to help the Pirates win for the fifth time in seven games.McKenry tweaked his left knee and could only trot up the first-base line after grounding to short to open the ninth inning. That could be a concern if Martin isn't able to return from his own knee injury Sunday."It's all right," McKenry said. "It's just kind of stuck."All-Star Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 4 with a triple to end a 2-for-16 slide and Starling Marte was 2 for 5 with a double after going 2 for 28 in his previous seven games.Pittsburgh, which hit .107 (9 for 84) with runners in scoring position over its previous nine games, went 6 for 17 in those situations Saturday.The Pirates face a tough test as they look to build on that performance against Fernandez (6-5, 2.74 ERA), who didn't miss a beat in his first start of the second half.Fernandez struck out eight while holding Colorado to two runs and five hits over seven innings in Tuesday's 4-2 road win.The right-hander hasn't allowed more than three runs in nine starts since the start of June, with the Marlins winning seven of those outings. He's 4-2 with a 1.82 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings over that span.Fernandez has been even better at Marlins Park, going 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in nine outings there.This will be only the third road start for Cole (5-3, 3.51), who is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in those two games.The right-hander snapped a three-start losing streak overall with the best outing of his career Tuesday. He limited Washington to one run and two hits over seven innings with one walk and four strikeouts."I mean, he's got that overpowering stuff," said Martin. "When he doesn't give too many free passes and he's able to throw strikes in good locations, he's a tough at-bat."Cole hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his eight starts, but the slumping Pirates had given him just four runs of support during his three-start skid.He'll try to help Pittsburgh complete a 6-4 road trip with a victory over the Marlins, who have batted .283 while winning four of six.Miami's Giancarlo Stanton continued his tear by going 3 for 4 with a double Saturday. He's 7 for 10 with a homer, three doubles and three RBIs in his last three games.Teammate Logan Morrison added three hits to break out of a 3-for-28 slump.
From Elias: Jose Fernandez (MIA): 13 strikeouts; most by an NL right-hander under the age of 21 since Kerry Wood struck out 13 on May 29m 1998 vs. Braves. Wood did it 3 times in May of 1998. Prior to Wood, the most recent was Dwight Gooden in 1985, who did it multiple times that season as well.