The Pittsburgh Pirates would seem to have no reason to be intimidated by the San Francisco Giants, who come to town Thursday for the start of a four-game series.
Sure, the Giants lead the National League West -- in fact, with the exception of St. Louis, they had the best record in baseball entering Wednesday -- and are coming off a 4-1 homestand. And Pittsburgh is bringing up the rear in the NL Central and is 3-8 this month.
But San Francisco might not look so big and bad to the Pirates compared to the ... Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates just dropped two of three against the Reds at home, including a 14-1 blowout, and are 1-5 against Cincinnati this year.
On the flip side, Pittsburgh is 3-0-1 in its past four series against San Francisco, going 9-5 in the head-to-head matchups in that span.
"I'm impressed with the way the veteran players are stepping up and taking control of this club," Giants manager Gabe Kapler told MLB Network, adding shout-outs to catcher Buster Posey, shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt.
One concern for the Giants is Belt. He has been dealing with left side tightness for several days and was removed from Tuesday's 4-2 win over Texas.
Belt was optimistic that the team's off day Wednesday would allow him to ready for Thursday.
"I think just staying on it with treatment before and after games, it shouldn't become a problem," Belt said.
Pittsburgh infielder/outfielder Phillip Evans left Wednesday's 5-1 loss to Cincinnati because of left hamstring discomfort, and manager Derek Shelton did not have a postgame update.
Evans was playing first base with Colin Moran on the injured list. Todd Frazier had filled in for Moran before being designated for assignment. Erik Gonzalez, normally a shortstop/third baseman, came on to play first Wednesday, pretty well depleting the current Pirates players who might competently play first.
In the series opener, San Francisco right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (2-1, 2.40 ERA) is scheduled to start against Pittsburgh right-hander Wil Crowe (0-1, 4.02).
Friday against San Diego, DeSclafani allowed three runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, with one walk and three strikeouts, in a no-decision. He took a one-hitter into the sixth before giving up a two-run homer to Trent Grisham.
DeSclafani is 2-7 with a 5.44 ERA in 16 career starts against Pittsburgh.
Crowe, who will be facing the Giants for the first time, is coming off a no-decision Saturday in Pittsburgh's 3-2 loss to the Cubs in Chicago. He allowed two runs and four hits in six innings, with one walk and five strikeouts. The Cubs had just six baserunners against Crowe on four singles, the walk and a hit batter.
It was a third straight strong start for the 26-year-old rookie but came during a stretch when the Pirates weren't supplying much run support.
"He pitched with everything," Shelton said of Crowe's four-pitch repertoire. "Really good outing. Six strong innings. Did a nice job with their lineup."
Crowe had a learning moment after giving up a run to Chicago in the first when he hit Willson Contreras while the bases were loaded, then got out of the inning without more damage.
"Getting comfortable through that first inning is a big thing for me," Crowe said. "So getting out of there with one run and knowing, like, 'Hey, let's go. It's game time now,' that's a big thing, the comfortability of seeing guys and pitching to guys and getting through lineups. That's all going to come."
--Field Level Media
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