Pirates-Rangers Preview

Gerrit Cole

The Pirates open a three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Monday night. Right-hander Gerrit Cole will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Rangers will toss right-hander Yu Darvish.

Manager Clint Hurdle is excited to bring his Pittsburgh Pirates to the place where he was previously employed, but he knows they'll have to play much better than they did over the weekend.

The Pirates have lost four straight and are 0-6 all-time in Arlington heading into Monday night's opener of a three-game set against a Texas Rangers team that has lost four straight starts by major league strikeout leader Yu Darvish.

Hurdle spent 2010 as the Rangers' batting coach, helping the franchise reach its first World Series before he was hired to manage Pittsburgh (81-61) the next season.

"I'm absolutely looking forward to it," Hurdle told the Pirates' official website. "I made a lot of friends. The makeup of the club has changed quite a bit - but there are still some stalwarts there."

The Pirates will be trying to regroup after being outscored 26-10 in three games in St. Louis - falling out of first place in the NL Central and hampering their chances for home-field advantage in a possible wild-card game against Cincinnati.

"We weren't sharp in any particular area of the game all weekend,'' Hurdle said. "They were much sharper than us across the board. It's very difficult to win a game when you are not functioning."

Pittsburgh is 1 1/2 games out of first place - the same margin Texas (81-61) trails Oakland in the AL West. The Rangers are 10-2 in the all-time series, winning every home matchup, but the Pirates come to town with the NL's best interleague mark at 12-5.

"They're pretty much in the same situation as we are," Hurdle said. "I have a lot of respect for what they've done, but we also respect what we've done."

The Pirates will get their first look at Darvish (12-7, 2.91 ERA), who is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his last four outings. He gave up five runs over five-plus innings and matched a career high with a season-worst six walks in an 11-4 defeat Wednesday at Oakland.

The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five career interleague starts. Darvish, whose 240 strikeouts are the franchise's second-most to Nolan Ryan's 301 in 1989, is trying to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time.

The Pittsburgh hitter with the most experience against him is former Minnesota slugger Justin Morneau, who is 1 for 5 with a homer versus him and will return to Arlington - where he played his last game with the Twins on Aug. 30.

Darvish will need to provide length after the bullpen worked 5 2-3 innings in relief of Nick Tepesch in Sunday's 4-3 victory over the Angels. The Rangers rallied with two runs in the seventh inning for their second win in seven games.

"It was a very big win. We needed it bad,'' manager Ron Washington said. "They took the lead, but we didn't give in. We just kept fighting and were able to make some good things happen. It's only one win, but it was huge."

Pittsburgh rookie starter Gerrit Cole (6-7, 3.74) is 0-2 with a 3.26 ERA in his last three outings. The right-hander gave up two runs over six innings Tuesday in a 4-3 win at Milwaukee - the last victory for Pittsburgh.

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