An awkwardly scheduled date could turn into double trouble when the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds cram a doubleheader into a busy week on Thursday.
The National League Central clubs will squeeze a lockout-rescheduled contest and a May 6 rainout makeup into what could have been atravel day for the Pirates and a day off for the Reds between visits from the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays.
Instead, the Pirates will attempt to brush off a 16-0 home shellacking at the hands of the New York Yankees while the Reds will try to bounce back after blowing a ninth-inning lead in an 8-3, 10-inning defeat at the hands of the Mets.
The Pirates plan to start right-handers Roansy Contreras (2-2, 4.09 ERA) and Bryse Wilson (1-4, 7.49) in the doubleheader. The Reds are expected to counter with lefty Mike Minor (1-5, 6.82), then decide upon a starter among bullpen options for the nightcap depending upon how Game 1 goes.
For the most part, both teams have held their own against quality competition of late.
The Pirates' thumping Wednesday completed a 3-3 homestand in which they alternated wins and losses against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Reds split their past four games against the Atlanta Braves and the Mets.
If there was an advantage in Wednesday's results, it went to the Pirates. The lopsided nature of their defeat allowed them to rest key relievers on a night when infielder Josh VanMeter pitched the ninth inning.
Pirates manager Derek Shelton wasn't going to let one big bump in the road spoil a nice ride of late.
"Right now, they're the best team in baseball," he said of the Yankees. "When you have a young group of players, it's really important for them to see what really good teams play like. It's important for them to watch and to learn."
While the Pirates were watching and learning, the Reds were firing all their cannons at the Mets, only to watch the visitors rally from a 3-2 deficit in the ninth to eventually get the extra-inning win.
Pirates Game 1 starter Contreras has never faced the Reds in his career. The 22-year-old is coming off his worst outing of the season, one in which his ERA ballooned from 2.76 to 4.09 when he allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in a 19-2 loss to the Brewers on Friday.
He had limited the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay to a total of two runs over 10 innings in his previous two starts.
His counterpart, Minor, threw his best game of the year in his Friday start, limiting the Braves to two runs in six innings in what turned into a 9-1 defeat.
The 34-year-old has gone 1-1 with a 5.08 ERA in five career starts against the Pirates.
In Game 2, Wilson will attempt to duplicate his last outing, when he rebounded from allowing a total of 14 runs in 6 2/3 innings in two starts against the St. Louis Cardinals to hold the Brewers to two runs in six innings on Saturday.
The 24-year-old will be making his second career start against the Reds. He took the loss in a 3-2 defeat at Cincinnati last August after giving up all three runs in six innings.
The Reds' opening in Game 2 was created when Tyler Mahle went on the injured list this week due to a strained right shoulder.
"It's just a little bit of irritation and inflammation," he said. "I think a little break will be great."
--Field Level Media