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Pirates try to end slide in opener at Texas
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Pirates try to avoid a season-high fifth consecutive defeat on Monday night in the opener of a three-game set against another second-place club, the Texas Rangers.
A three-game sweep at the hands of St. Louis over the weekend extended Pittsburgh's losing streak and dropped the club 1 1/2 games behind the first- place Cardinals in the NL Central.
The Pirates are tied in the standings with the Cincinnati Reds and the clubs hold the two wild card spots in the NL. They own an eight-game lead over Washington for the playoff berths.
Following a shutout defeat on Saturday, the Pirates failed to salvage a game against the rival Cardinals with a 9-2 setback and lost starter Charlie Morton in the second inning due to a left foot ailment. He allowed five runs over 1 2/3 frames before his exit.
"We weren't sharp in any particular area of the game all weekend," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose club remains one win shy of securing the franchise's first winning season since 1992.
The Ranges have also struggled of late, losing five of six before winning Sunday's finale of a three-game set versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The 4-3 win helped Texas avoid a sweep and remain 1 1/2 games behind Oakland for first place in the AL West.
Alex Rios, who homered in the first inning, doubled home the go-ahead run in the seventh frame.
"I put a good swing on it," Rios said. "I hit that blooper in the right spot ... Hopefully this win will get us going again."
Texas also is hoping Yu Darvish can get back on track as the majors' leader in strikeouts is 0-2 with a 4.50 earned run average in his last four starts.
Darvish, who has 240 strikeouts on the season, lost his second outing in a row on Wednesday, yielding five runs on five hits and six walks over five innings of a setback in Oakland. He fanned four and gave up two homers in the 11-4 decision.
"It wasn't a good day for him, that's all," manager Ron Washington said on Texas' website. "He didn't have his command. That can happen if you take the ball enough. There is no reason to push the panic button. Yu is human. He is like everybody else, he can have a bad day when it just doesn't work. Today was that day."
The 27-year-old righty is 12-7 with a 2.91 ERA in 27 games this season and faces the Pirates for the first time. He is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five career interleague starts, striking out 55 over 37 1/3 innings.
Pittsburgh counters with rookie Gerrit Cole, who is 6-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 15 starts and has allowed more than three earned runs in just one of those outings.
Still, the 23-year-old righty is coming off a no-decision at Milwaukee on Tuesday, giving up two runs on five hits and a walk over six frames.
Cole faces the Rangers for the first time and has split two interleague starts this year while posting a 2.70 ERA.
The Rangers are hosting the Pirates for the first time since sweeping a three- game set in June of the 2010 season.
09/09 10:57:34 ET
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