The Pirates might have finally figured out their offense, ending their homestand strong against the Braves on Sunday, 4-2, as they took three of four from Atlanta and recorded their seventh win in their nine games at home.
Pittsburgh hit .266 in its series win against Atlanta, and will look to carry the momentum in its opener with the Phillies on Monday. The game will mark the first time the Pirates have faced a team with a losing record this season, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn't getting carried away with his club's relatively solid start against tough competition.
"All it means is we can beat a good team on a hot streak. But if we lose two straight, all the questions in [my office] change; I know that's the way it goes," said Hurdle.
The game marks the start of a 10-game road trip for Pittsburgh, its longest to date, as A.J. Burnett makes his fifth start.
Burnett was dominant early in his last start against the Cardinals, carrying a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings before Carlos Beltran smacked a double. That was the only hit the right-hander gave up through seven scoreless innings, as his devastating curve helped push him to a team-leading 35 strikeouts.
Burnett is 6-9 against the Phillies over his career with a 5.06 ERA, but grabbed four of those wins in Philadelphia. The right-hander owns a 4.79 ERA through 67 1/3 innings against the Phillies, but will have his hands full as he tries to manage their strong home advantage this year.
Philadelphia's lineup has struggled at times this season, but has enjoyed a significant offensive boost at home, averaging 5.5 runs per game (sixth-best among all Major League clubs). Jonathan Pettibone might need the support, after being called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make his Major League debut Monday.
Pettibone was the Phillies' third-round selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, and has compiled a 3.44 ERA in 89 Minors appearances. The right-hander was a combined 13-8 with a 3.10 ERA between Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley last season, but surrendered 12 runs (10 earned) in two starts at Triple-A this year.
"I think it lined up well for him," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's a guy who's got stuff. He hasn't pitched great this year yet, but his stuff has been good. The reports about his stuff and competitiveness have been good.
"His command hasn't been great. Hopefully he's got enough weapons and guile to pitch well for us. He's got a pretty good arsenal. We'll see how he competes."
Phillies: Howard staying put
Despite Ryan Howard's recent groin issues, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he isn't looking to move his first baseman down in lineup. Moving the lefty out of the cleanup spot could create interesting matchup issues, with the right-hander Michael Young between him and lefty Chase Utley, but Manuel said he hasn't seen anyone who can match Howard's production.
"Guys are always talking to me about dropping him down. That'll be the day when somebody knocks in 130 runs. Or 120. I haven't seen anybody out here who can do that yet. That's kind of how I look at it. We can talk about it and go all around any way we want to," Manuel said.
"It's just a matter of getting him going. I think that's the biggest thing," Manuel said. "We need to get Howard hitting like he has in the past. The last couple years, he's been hurting, and he hasn't gotten back yet."
Pirates: Time for Inge to return?
The Pirates will have to make a call on Brandon Inge during this series. Inge began his 20-day rehab (cracked shoulder blade) on April 4 at Triple-A Indianapolis, and has since gone 8-for-54 with two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs and 12 walks.
• The Pirates have a fan in Manuel. "Lately they've been playing real good," Manuel said. "They've been winning some close games. They've been getting some big hits, too. I've been watching them. If it's on, I'll watch it, but also I've been watching because we play them soon. And they've been playing good."
• The Pirates have a 2-4 record on the road this season.
• Pirates outfielder Travis Snider extended his hitting streak to eight games on Sunday.
• On Sunday night, John Mayberry Jr. became the third different No. 2 hitter the Phillies have used this season. "Lately John's been hitting the ball hard," Manuel said. "I like John there because maybe my first six guys will move the ball and we'll score some runs. I don't know if I look at John as a speed runner but I think he can go first to third and second to home, so that helps."
Gary Cotton is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.