Probable Starting Pitchers: Detroit - Brad Penny (4-3, 4.11) Pittsburgh - Jeff Karstens (2-2, 3.62)
(Sports Network) - Any thoughts of the Pittsburgh Pirates winning three in a row for the second time this month may have gone out the window with interleague play set to begin this weekend.
Owners of baseball's worst winning percentage in interleague play, the Pirates hope to reverse their fortunes this evening in the opener of a three-game series against Jim Leyland's Detroit Tigers at PNC Park.
The Pirates own just a .382 winning percentage (52-84) in interleague play, with last year's 2-13 mark versus the American League certainly not helping. The next lowest percentage to the Pirates belongs to the Orioles and their .417 winning percentage versus the NL.
Last season's struggles versus the Junior Circuit included a three-game sweep in Detroit in June, but the Pirates have split 12 of the all-time meetings at PNC Park versus Detroit.
Pittsburgh six straight before recording back-to-back wins over Cincinnati, including Thursday's 5-3 triumph. Neil Walker drove in two runs, Ryan Doumit homered and Andrew McCutchen contributed an RBI double to the win.
James McDonald worked 6 2/3 solid innings, yielding seven hits, one a solo homer to Jay Bruce in the second inning.
"The first inning was kind of slow. I think the Bruce home run kind of woke me up a little bit," McDonald said.
Jeff Karstens draws the starting assignment for the Pirates tonight, but is winless in his last four starts (0-2) despite a solid 3.38 earned run average. The right-hander took the loss in Milwaukee on Saturday, giving up two solo homers over five innings, striking out five in an 8-2 setback.
Karstens is 2-2 with a 3.62 earned run average in nine games this year, including six starts. The 28-year-old is 1-0 with a 3.62 ERA in eight interleague games, four of those starts, and got a no-decision the only time he faced Detroit after giving up two runs over seven frames.
Detroit seeks to avoid a fourth straight setback this evening after yesterday's heart-breaking defeat to Boston. After Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera had tied the game for the Tigers with back-to-back solo homers in the eighth inning, the Red Sox won it on Carl Crawford's walk-off hit with the bases loaded.
"It was a great matchup and we figured runs would be stingy, and they were," Leyland said. "We just have to do a better job at making contact in good situations."
Austin Jackson added two hits in defeat and is hitting .354 (17-for-48) over an 11-game hitting streak with a pair of homers and eight RBI.
Detroit had won seven straight before its current slide and now sits five games back of Cleveland for first place in the AL Central.
Hopefully a matchup with the Pirates, who Leyland managed from 1986-96, will help right the ship. Detroit was 11-7 versus the NL last year and is 63-27 in interleague play since Leyland took over in 2006.
With Detroit set to lose the DH spot due to this road game, Leyland is expected to start Victor Martinez behind the plate on Friday and Sunday. Detroit's regular DH has caught just eight games this season.
Martinez will be catching Brad Penny tonight as the right-hander aims for a fourth straight winning start. Penny has a 0.83 ERA over his win streak and beat the Royals on Saturday with eight scoreless innings of five-hit ball. The right-hander struck out two without a walk in the 3-0 win as he has allowed six earned runs in his past five starts.
Penny, who turns 33 on Tuesday, is 4-3 with a 4.11 ERA in nine starts this season. The long-time NL hurler is 4-2 with a 4.09 ERA in his career versus the Pirates.