Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle insists he hasn’t been keeping close tabs of his team’s slide following a hot start. He wasn’t aware the Pirates had dropped eight straight series until someone mentioned it to him earlier in the week.
”If somebody would have told me you’re going to lose eight series Lance Kendricks Jersey , you’d think you’re going to be horrible,” Hurdle said. ”We’re not horrible. We’re fighting. And we believe that our best baseball is in front of us.”
It is, at least when the Pirates play the struggling Cincinnati Reds. Josh Harrison hit a two-run homer, Colin Moran and Elias Diaz added solo shots and the Pirates pulled away for a 6-2 victory on Saturday to push their modest winning streak to three and assuring themselves of their first positive series since taking a two-game set from the Chicago White Sox a month ago.
”We know what’s happened here the past couple weeks,” Harrison said. ”Guys are still plugging away and coming ready to show up every day and we’ve had three in a row. We know that doesn’t speak for what’s happened or what will happen. We’ve just got to continue to keep bringing it every day.”
Moran and Diaz both went deep off Luis Castillo (4-8) to give Pittsburgh the lead. Harrison hit his fourth of the season off reliever Austin Brice in the sixth. The Cincinnati native finished 2 for 4 is hitting .368 (14 for 38) against the Reds.
”Any time you can have a total offensive effort like that, it shows that we’re doing what we’re supposed to, taking advantage of mistake pitches and when presented with an opportunity to move a runner, get it done,” Harrison said.
Ivan Nova (4-5) worked through heavy traffic on a day his breaking ball abandoned him to last six innings and pick up his second victory in as many starts since returning from the 10-day disabled list with a sprained right ring finger. Nova allowed only Eugenio Suarez’s 13th home run in the second, striking out three while giving up three walks.
”I didn’t have the curveball today, but we grinded out there,” Nova said.
Castillo struggled keeping the ball on the right side of the fence at PNC Park Jamaal Williams Jersey , a problem that’s plagued the 25-year-old all season. He’s now allowed at least one home run in 15 of his 18 starts.
”It’s surprising because I’m trying to do my best and every time I get out there, I give up one or two home runs,” Castillo said after dropping his fourth straight decision. ”I really don’t know what’s happening right now. I’m just going to keep working in the bullpen and keep doing my best trying to help.”
Rookie Brandon Dixon hit his first major league home run off Pittsburgh reliever Michael Feliz in the ninth and Jesse Winker had two of Cincinnati’s seven hits to snap out of an 0-for-13 skid, but the Reds had issues taking advantage against Nova.
Cincinnati went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and is now 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position in the series.
”We’ve just got to get it going,” Reds manager Jim Riggleman said. ”You go through these things. We’ve got a good offensive ball club. We’ve shown it many times. We’re just in a little funk here where we’re not getting some timely hits.”
Moran broke a tie with his fourth home run of the season and first since June 2 when he sent Castillo’s pitch into the bullpen beyond the centerfield fence leading off the second. Diaz made it 3-1 when his fifth home run led off the third.
The Reds had their opportunities against Nova. They loaded the bases in the fourth only to have Billy Hamilton ground out to first to end the threat. Scott Schebler led off the fifth with a double but couldn’t get home and Hamilton came to the plate in the sixth with two runners on only to fly out to left field.
Hamilton finished 0 for 4 as his averaged dipped to .187.
Pirates: Reliever Richard Rodriguez (right shoulder inflammation) threw 20 pitches in a simulated game and is nearing a return from the 10-day disabled list. Rodriguez, who is eligible to come off the DL on Monday, said ”things feel really good right now.”
Reds: Anthony DeSclafani (1-1, 5.40 ERA) starts the series finale on Sunday. The 28-year-old picked up his first victory since 2016 in his previous start against St. Louis.
Pirates: Joe Musgrove (2-1, 2.16) makes his first career start against the Reds. Musgrove gave up two earned runs in five innings of a no decision on Monday against Arizona.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t have near the playoff experience as the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jacksonville, though, has winning experience at Heinz Field.
The champions of the AFC South (Jaguars) and AFC North (Steelers) will meet Sunday in the divisional round with the winner advancing to the AFC Championship Game against Tennessee or New England on Jan. 21.
Jacksonville trounced Pittsburgh 30-9 on Oct. 8 at Heinz Field Authentic Su'a Cravens Jersey , forcing Steelers two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into a career-worst five interceptions.
The Steelers (13-3) went on to win 10 of their last 11 games to secure the AFC’s second seed and first-round bye.
“We’ve evolved since then,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “They have evolved a lot since then. (The first game) is a good physical reference in terms of the matchups. … I am sure that they are as different as we are since the last time we’ve seen them.”
The Jaguars are hoping that the evolution has been minimal, especially the passing game. Roethlisberger said last week he was hoping the Steelers would get to play the Jaguars.
Jacksonville All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey helped grant his wish with his interception in the final seconds to seal Jacksonville’s 10-3 victory over Buffalo in the wild-card round Sunday at EverBank Field. The win was Jacksonville’s first in the playoffs since the 2007 season, its last appearance.
The Jaguars (11-6) returned two Roethlisberger interceptions for touchdowns in the first meeting.
The 35-year-old Roethlisberger wondered “if he still has it” after the loss when meeting with reporters.
Ramsey said with the Bills game behind them, Big Ben’s comments about wanting a rematch have their attention.
“I’m sure it will be brought up a couple times this week,” Ramsey said. “I would want to play us again too. He threw five picks and was contemplating retirement saying whether he had it or not after playing us. They had a good season after our game. But, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. We’ll see Big Ben and the Steelers on Sunday. We’ll see what happens then.”
Ramsey intercepted a pass in the Pittsburgh win and deflected four passes. One breakup resulted in strong safety Barry Church intercepting a pass and returning it 51 yards for a touchdown.
Roethlisberger was quick to praise the Jaguars’ defense this week.
“This is one of the best defenses I’ve ever played against,” Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers finished the season ranked third in the NFL in passing yardage, with the Jaguars first in pass defense.
“They play to our strengths,” Ramsey said. “They think that passing is their strength. Defending the pass is our strength. Any team that tries to pass the ball on us 40 times hasn’t had success on us and I don’t think will have success on us. We have to grind this week though. They’re a good team coming off the bye. We’re going to have to have a great game plan and execute.”
Ramsey will be in the headlining matchup Sunday as he goes up against Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who caught 10 passes for 157 yards on 19 targets in the first meeting.
Brown injured his calf on Dec. 17, but is expected to play Sunday. The eighth-year veteran led the NFL in receiving yards this season with 1 Authentic Courtland Sutton Jersey ,533 (89 more than No. 2 Julio Jones), despite missing the final two games of the season.
Pittsburgh will also try to lean more on All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who was held to 93 total yards in the first meeting.
“He’s not one-dimensional,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “It’s not like this guy is going to take the ball and run downhill and run you over every single time he takes it. He can do that. He can also get the ball outside. He has excellent patience. He has a really good understanding of the blocking scheme. He’s a natural catcher.”
The big question is how much will Pittsburgh really need to score? Jacksonville’s offense has been sluggish lately, scoring 20 total points in its last two outings combined.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles wasn’t effective in the first meeting. He completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a 48.2 passer rating.
The Jaguars’ top-ranked run offense had one of its best days of the season, generating 231 yards. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette carried 28 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-clinching 90-yard score.
“Hopefully, we can throw less,” Bortles said. “That would be awesome. Leonard goes off again and those guys up front play as well as they did last time, we can run the ball up there and not have to throw at all. It was something that happened last time, but you never know.”
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