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Interleague Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, June 9th (All times Eastern)

Kansas City Royals (24-32) at Pittsburgh Pirates (30-27), 7:15 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Kansas City - Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 2.25) Pittsburgh - James McDonald (5-2, 2.14)

(Sports Network) - Streaking right-hander James McDonald aims to keep the Pittsburgh Pirates in the thick of the National League Central race tonight when they host the Kansas City Royals in the middle game of an interleague series at PNC Park.

The Pirates won Friday's opener, 4-2, to stay two games behind the front- running Cincinnati Reds in the Central.

Cincinnati defeated Detroit, 6-5, in 10 innings to maintain its lead, but the Pirates pulled ahead of St. Louis, which had been tied for second, when the Cardinals lost 6-2 to visiting Cleveland.

McDonald, who had 18 big-league wins in 95 appearances heading into this season, picked up his third victory in a row and fifth in his last seven starts on June 3 with a 6-5 defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers.

He allowed an earned run on four hits in six innings in that win, which marked the 11th consecutive start in which he's allowed three earned runs or less.

McDonald hasn't lost since May 11 against Houston, when he went eight innings and allowed four hits and a run in a tough-luck 1-0 defeat.

His other defeat was April 13 in San Francisco, when the Pirates were beaten, 5-0.

The 27-year-old, who's 2-1 in six home starts with a stingy 1.28 earned run average, has never faced the Royals.

Kansas City starts New Jersey-born righty Vin Mazzaro, who starts for the third time this season and the 42nd time in his 52nd major-league appearance.

The 25-year-old was drafted in the third round by the Oakland Athletics in 2005 and debuted with the team in 2009 with four wins in 17 starts.

He went 6-8 in 24 appearances with Oakland a season later, then came to Kansas City in a three-player deal in November 2010.

Mazzaro made 22 starts at Triple-A Omaha and seven appearances with the Royals last season, and has again split this spring between Omaha and the big club, making eight minor-league starts and three appearances with Kansas City.

He pitched one scoreless inning in relief in May 11, then won starts on May 15 against Texas and June 3 against Oakland, while combining to allow three runs on 11 hits in 11 innings.

He has never faced the Pirates.

On Friday, Erik Bedard tossed seven strong innings and the Pirates knocked off the Royals, 4-2.

Bedard (4-6) allowed just two runs on five hits and three walks to go with five strikeouts to earn the win. Jason Grilli worked a perfect eighth and Joel Hanrahan bounced back from a blown save on Thursday with a 1-2-3 ninth to claim his 16th save of the season.

Neil Walker went 3-for-4 with an RBI single, while Garrett Jones and Clint Barmes knocked in runs for the Pirates, who have won four of their last five

Yuniesky Betancourt and Mike Moustakas drove in runs for the Royals, losers in three of their last four contests. Luke Hochevar (3-7) gave up four runs on nine hits and a walk while fanning three to absorb the loss.

Kansas City leads the interleague series, 13-11, but the Pirates also won two of three the last time the teams met in 2009.

06/09 10:33:45 ET

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