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|The Pittsburgh Pirates had to wait several weeks into the season to see just what they got with right-hander Joe Musgrove in an offseason trade with Houston.
It has been about a month since he came off the disabled list after a shoulder injury delayed his season debut Joe Looney Jersey , and Musgrove has proved fiercely competitive and fiercely loyal.
Musgrove is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA for Pittsburgh (35-35) going into his sixth start Sunday, against right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (1-1, 5.40) and the Cincinnati Reds (25-45) in a series finale at PNC Park.
With a 6-2 victory Saturday, the Pirates won their third straight, climbed back to .500 and ensured themselves of winning a series after dropping eight in a row.
The Reds have lost two straight after a three-game winning streak.
Not only is Musgrove averaging more than six innings per start, with 23 strikeouts in 25 innings and a 1.12 WHIP, but also has played with an edge.
“He’s a tough guy,” Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said last month. “When he’s on the mound, he’s mean. He’s the kind of guy that you want to have on the mound all the time.”
In his most recent outing, a no-decision Monday in Arizona’s comeback 9-5 win, Musgrove was cruising with a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning when he hit Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Owings in acknowledged retaliation.
An inning earlier, Diamondbacks right-hander Braden Shipley hit Pirates infielder Josh Harrison — who got plunked 23 times last year and spent time on the DL this season and last because of a broken hand after being hit by pitches — and Pittsburgh rookie Austin Meadows got knocked down by a pitch earlier.
“It’s nothing more than just protecting your teammates,” Musgrove said. “It’s baseball. That’s how the game is played. That’s how I was raised to play the game. You protect your teammates, especially when a guy gets hit high up and in.”
The Pirates appreciated Musgrove’s loyalty Michael Irvin Jersey , despite the fact that his retaliatory move might have sparked Arizona’s winning rally.
“That wasn’t the turning point of the game in my eyes,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “You can’t control what other people are going to think.
“The importance of teammates taking a stand for one another, I think that is part of the game. Everybody can construct their own narrative afterward. But I know (Harrison) has been hit a ton, been hit a lot. … Just plunking our guys, whether it’s accidental or not, is just not OK.”
Harrison said “it felt good” to have his new teammate stand up for him.
Musgrove has never faced the Reds.
DeSclafani has made six career starts against Pittsburgh, going 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA, but not since Sept. 17, 2016.
DeSclafani missed all of 2017 because of an elbow injury and, like Musgrove, opened this season on the DL because of an oblique strain.
Last Sunday, in his second start this season, DeSclafani picked up his first win since Sept. 28, 2016 Bruce Ellington Jersey , 6-3 over St. Louis. He gave up two runs and 10 hits in five innings, with six strikeouts and two walks.
“I don’t think I was as good as I wanted to be,” DeSclafani said. “There’s definitely a lot of work from here on out. I was falling behind some guys and giving up too many hits.
“But it’s definitely something to build on.”
He has yet to get his setup pitch, his curveball, back to where it once was.
“Definitely still getting a feel for it. I only threw a few of them,” he said. “It’s definitely got to be incorporated. I need some kind of equalizer to (go along with) my fastball and slider. Once that comes around, it should make things a little bit easier.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Cincinnati Reds have the worst record in the National League at 24-43, but they still have a better record than the Kansas City Royals.
The Reds beat the Royals 5-1 in 10 innings Tuesday. The Royals have dropped eight of their past nine and are 22-45 overall. Only the Baltimore Orioles (19-47) have a worst record.
The Royals are 23 games below .500 for the first time since Sept. 13, 2011, when they were 63-86.
The Reds will go for a sweep of the two-game mini-series in Kansas City on Wednesday night. The Reds’ victory Tuesday was their first over the Royals since June 12, 2010.
Right-hander Tyler Mahle of the Reds and Jason Hammel of the Royals are scheduled starting pitchers for the series finale.
Mahle (4-6, 4.33 ERA) is 1-0 in two June starts, allowing 11 hits and two earned runs in 10 innings Nate Orchard Jersey , while striking out 11 and walking four.
This will be Mahle’s first time facing the Royals, but not his first time on the Kaufman Stadium mound. He threw a mound session before the 2013 draft when the Reds chose him in the seventh round.
“They had a high school workout,” Mahle said. “Pitchers just threw a bullpen off the game mound; that was it. All the scouts were here.”
He said never pitching against the Royals does not change his preparation.
“It’s the same between every start,” Mahle said. “I prepare to go out there and hit my spots and compete. It’s a new team, and I’ve never seen them play before, so I’m going to do my homework and kind of make a game plan out of it.”
He said he pitches not to the Royals’ weaknesses, but his strengths.
“You always play to your own strength,” he said. “We’re going to find out what their weaknesses are and kind of find something there in the middle. I throw a lot of fastballs, but if there’s a guy who likes a lot of fastballs, it kind of collides there.
“But, at the same time, if you hit spots, good things are going to happen. Obviously if you throw it down the middle, he’s going to hit it Austin Seferian-Jenkins Jersey , but if you hit a corner, or something like that, always if you make your pitch, good things are going to happen.”
Good things happened to the Reds in the Tuesday victory. They trailed 1-0 entering the ninth, but Tucker Barnhart led off the inning with a blast off Kelvin Herrera that landed in the Royals’ bullpen.
“That is against one of the best closers in the game, so that was huge,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman said. “Both pitchers are pitching so good it’s probably going to be a home-run type game. Nobody was putting a rally together. They got one and we got one, and our bullpen really did a great job.”
Hammel (2-6, 5.12 ERA) is 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA in his last four starts after a 13-start winless streak in which he went 0-8 with a 7.28 ERA. He has issued two or fewer walks in 10 of his 13 starts this season.
Hammel is 0-3 with a 4.70 ERA in five home starts this year and is winless in his last seven Kauffman Stadium starts dating to Aug. 20.
He is 4-1 with a 3.42 ERA in 12 career outings (11 starts) against the Reds. He has won his last four starts against Cincinnati with a 0.75 ERA, but has not faced the Reds since 2016.
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