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Pirates have brooms ready for struggling Blue Jays

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The Sports Network
5/4/2014 11:16:15 AM
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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Blue Jays have blown two late leads to open up a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates, who play their third game of a nine-game homestand today, aim to put the Blue Jays out of their misery with a sweep at PNC Park.

Pittsburgh won Friday's opener 6-5 and took the series with an 8-6 triumph on Saturday. They scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the game and Neil Walker's two-run double in the eighth put Pittsburgh ahead for good.

In Saturday's loss, Jose Bautista belted his ninth home run, Brett Lawrie collected three hits and Josh Thole went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. R.A. Dickey got the start for the Jays and did not record a decision with six innings of three-run ball.

Todd Redmond gave up the go-ahead runs and Aaron Loup was reached for three runs in relief.

"I felt pretty strong tonight," Dickey said. "But Loup is really good. He had a tough night tonight ... I thought it was a good call. It just didn't work out."

Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro hasn't played since Thursday's win at Kansas City because of a right quadriceps issue and could return Sunday.

The Jays will visit Philadelphia for two games after their trip to Pittsburgh and will start a nine-game homestand later in the week.

Taking the hill for the Blue Jays Sunday will be Dustin McGowan, who is 1-1 in five starts to go along with a 5.87 ERA. McGowan hasn't registered a decision in his last three outings and previously toed the rubber in Tuesday's 10-7 loss at Kansas City, where he permitted three runs, two of which were earned, in six innings of work.

McGowan had allowed nine runs in his past two starts (8 IP). The right-hander won his only career start against Pittsburgh back on June 22, 2008, as he lasted five innings and gave up four runs (3 earned) in an 8-5 victory in the Steel City.

The Jays and Pirates are tangling for the first time since 2011, when Pittsburgh took two of three games north of the border.

"Part of the reason I think you pull it off is you keep pushing and you keep believing," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "The guys keep rooting each other on, keep going up there trying to get something done."

Jordy Mercer's two-run double highlighted the seventh inning, while Josh Harrison ended 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored and Clint Barmes finished with a pair of hits.

Pittsburgh's late heroics made a winner out of relief pitcher Bryan Morris, who improved to 3-0 with a scoreless top of the eighth inning. Mark Melancon worked around a hit in the ninth for his first save and starter Francisco Liriano struggled through 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs -- four earned -- and six hits.

San Francisco and St. Louis are scheduled to visit the Steel City as well.

The Pirates will hand pitching duties to Edinson Volquez on Sunday and he has lost his last two trips to the mound. He allowed two runs in seven innings of a 4-1 loss to Cincinnati on April 22, then was pounded for six runs and seven hits through 5 2/3 frames in last Sunday's 7-0 loss at St. Louis.

Volquez dropped to 1-2 on the season with a 3.21 earned run average in six games (5 starts) after the loss to the Cardinals. He has allowed 10 runs over his last three appearances.

The right-hander has made three career starts against Toronto, going 0-2 with a lofty 8.16 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting just .230 against Volquez.

Toronto looks to avoid the sweep and has lost eight of its last 10 games.

Brett Lawrie (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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