For the first time this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are assured of losing a series. In fact, they will be trying to avoid a sweep by the Colorado Rockies when the teams play Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Colorado (11-8) won its third game in a row and second of this series 2-0 Tuesday night. In what has become a rarity for the Rockies, they didn't need the long ball to win. They have 26 homers in 19 games.
Since losing their first two road games of the season, the Rockies are 9-2 away from home.
Pittsburgh (11-6) had won or split each of its first five series. The Pirates have lost two straight games for the first time but remain the surprising leader of the National League Central.
In the series finale, Colorado left-hander Kyle Freeland (0-2, 4.50 ERA) will square off against Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl (1-1, 5.74 ERA).
It might not be a coincidence that the Pirates' two losses in a row coincide with the first two games missed by second baseman, leadoff man and energy generator Josh Harrison, who has a broken left hand after getting hit by a pitch Sunday.
"I've got to find a silver lining in it somehow," Harrison said. "I've got to keep bringing my energy."
Adam Frazier replaced Harrison in the field and at the top of the order Monday, and Sean Rodriguez did the same Tuesday. Each was 0-for-4.
This is also a series in which the Pirates' top two starters, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova, are not scheduled to pitch. Pittsburgh's other effective starter, Trevor Williams, had a strong outing Tuesday but got no run support.
Kuhl has been inconsistent. In a 7-2 loss at Miami his last time out, he gave up a career-high 11 hits, although only one of them was for extra bases and he was victimized by some fielding mistakes behind him.
"Flares and bloops, and the balls that were hit hard didn't have the launch angle," Kuhl said. "Kind of unfortunate, kind of singled to death. Didn't have too many balls that were lifted."
Kuhl is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in two career starts against the Rockies, both last season and both against top Colorado starter German Marquez.
Freeland got a no-decision in his most recent start, a 2-1 win at Washington. He allowed one run and four hits, with three walks and four strikeouts but pressed the Rockies bullpen into early activation when he lasted just 4 2/3 innings.
"It was a battle out there; they kept fouling stuff off," Freeland told the Denver Post. "But were able to come out of it with a win. ... Where (the Nationals) had a lot of runners on in certain innings, me and (catcher Chris) Iannetta were able to minimize damage or have no damage at all. That came with good sequencing and executing pitches."
Freeland faced Pittsburgh twice as a rookie last season, going 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA, four walks and six strikeouts.
In 14 starts in his career on the road, he is 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA.