|10:35 AM PT11:35 AM MT12:35 PM CT1:35 PM ET13:35 ET17:35 GMT1:35 10:35 AM MST12:35 PM EST1:05 PM VEN21:35 UAE12:35 PM CT, June 17, 2018
PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Attendance: 23,042
Pirates eye sweep of Reds with Musgrove on mound
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The Pittsburgh Pirates had to wait several weeks into the season to see just what they got with right-hander Joe Musgrove in an offseason trade with Houston.
It has been about a month since he came off the disabled list after a shoulder injury delayed his season debut, and Musgrove has proved fiercely competitive and fiercely loyal.
Musgrove is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA for Pittsburgh (35-35) going into his sixth start Sunday, against right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (1-1, 5.40) and the Cincinnati Reds (25-45) in a series finale at PNC Park.
With a 6-2 victory Saturday, the Pirates won their third straight, climbed back to .500 and ensured themselves of winning a series after dropping eight in a row.
The Reds have lost two straight after a three-game winning streak.
Not only is Musgrove averaging more than six innings per start, with 23 strikeouts in 25 innings and a 1.12 WHIP, but also has played with an edge.
"He's a tough guy," Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said last month. "When he's on the mound, he's mean. He's the kind of guy that you want to have on the mound all the time."
In his most recent outing, a no-decision Monday in Arizona's comeback 9-5 win, Musgrove was cruising with a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning when he hit Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Owings in acknowledged retaliation.
An inning earlier, Diamondbacks right-hander Braden Shipley hit Pirates infielder Josh Harrison -- who got plunked 23 times last year and spent time on the DL this season and last because of a broken hand after being hit by pitches -- and Pittsburgh rookie Austin Meadows got knocked down by a pitch earlier.
"It's nothing more than just protecting your teammates," Musgrove said. "It's baseball. That's how the game is played. That's how I was raised to play the game. You protect your teammates, especially when a guy gets hit high up and in."
The Pirates appreciated Musgrove's loyalty, despite the fact that his retaliatory move might have sparked Arizona's winning rally.
"That wasn't the turning point of the game in my eyes," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "You can't control what other people are going to think.
"The importance of teammates taking a stand for one another, I think that is part of the game. Everybody can construct their own narrative afterward. But I know (Harrison) has been hit a ton, been hit a lot. ... Just plunking our guys, whether it's accidental or not, is just not OK."
Harrison said "it felt good" to have his new teammate stand up for him.
Musgrove has never faced the Reds.
DeSclafani has made six career starts against Pittsburgh, going 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA, but not since Sept. 17, 2016.
DeSclafani missed all of 2017 because of an elbow injury and, like Musgrove, opened this season on the DL because of an oblique strain.
Last Sunday, in his second start this season, DeSclafani picked up his first win since Sept. 28, 2016, 6-3 over St. Louis. He gave up two runs and 10 hits in five innings, with six strikeouts and two walks.
"I don't think I was as good as I wanted to be," DeSclafani said. "There's definitely a lot of work from here on out. I was falling behind some guys and giving up too many hits.
"But it's definitely something to build on."
He has yet to get his setup pitch, his curveball, back to where it once was.
"Definitely still getting a feel for it. I only threw a few of them," he said. "It's definitely got to be incorporated. I need some kind of equalizer to (go along with) my fastball and slider. Once that comes around, it should make things a little bit easier."
Updated June 16, 2018