Improving Pirates open series against struggling Twins

MLB

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who open a series Friday against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis, have found some footing despite being in a rebuilding season.

Since they lost six in a row to fall to 1-6, the Pirates have won eight of their past 12 games, and have won three series and split one series.

Two of those series wins, at Milwaukee and Detroit, have come over the past six games and are the first two-thirds of a nine-game road trip that concludes in Minnesota.

“The pitchers are just giving us a chance, going out and pitching to keep us in the game, and then everybody is (giving us) tough at-bats, one through nine, and that’s the key to success,” Pittsburgh second baseman Adam Frazier told AT&T Sportsnet.

“We’ll try to do it again in Minnesota.”

While Pittsburgh won 4-2 Thursday to take two of three in Detroit, Minnesota had a day off.

The Twins slink back to Minnesota for a quick three-game homestand, having lost nine of their past 10 games following a 5-2 start.

“We’re finding ways to not win games,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Our guys continue to fight and continue to play hard.”

Often for naught.

Take the Twins’ most recent game. They were an out away from a win but made two successive errors in the bottom of the 10th inning in Oakland, leading to three unearned Athletics’ runs, and lost 13-12, wasting Byron Buxton’s two-run homer in the top of that inning.

That concluded a road trip during which Minnesota went 0-4, including a doubleheader sweep, and had two games postponed.

In the opening game of the weekend series Friday, Twins left-hander J.A. Happ (0-0, 3.12 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander JT Brubaker (2-0, 1.76 ERA).

Happ, looking for his first decision in his third start, last pitched April 13. He gave up two runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings, with one walk and three strikeouts, against Boston.

Happ is 4-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 10 career starts against Pittsburgh, but only one of those came in the past nine years. That was Aug. 13, 2017, when he picked up a win, giving up one run and four hits in six innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Happ pitched for the Pirates in 2015, going 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts.

Brubaker, 27 years old and less than a year removed from his major league debut, has probably been the closest thing to an ace Pittsburgh has had so far this year.

He has given up one earned run in each of his three starts, building his innings from four to 5 1/3 to six last Friday, when he had strong command, striking out eight in a 6-1 Pittsburgh win at Milwaukee.

A lot of that had to do with the effectiveness of his slider.

“I think it’s the best we’ve seen it consistently throughout (his) outings,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We’ve seen it for an inning or two or a stretch of one time through the order, but throughout the entire appearance, his slider was really effective.”

Brubaker has faced Minnesota once, giving up three runs in three innings of a no-decision in a 6-5 Pittsburgh victory last Aug. 6.

–Field Level Media

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