MLB

Pirates-Reds Preview

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez, right, tries to handle the throw from the outfield as Philadelphia Phillies' Odubel Herrera scores on a single by Carlos Ruiz during the second inning of an exhibition baseball game, Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Phi Photo:

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez, right, tries to handle the throw from the outfield as Philadelphia Phillies' Odubel Herrera scores on a single by Carlos Ruiz during the second inning of an exhibition baseball game, Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Phi

The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't been doing well with Cincinnati Reds pitchers who have never started against them, and they'll see another one Sunday.

Many teams going forward will be in the same situation considering the Reds rotation is now comprised solely of rookies.

Keyvius Sampson makes his first major league start looking to help Cincinnati claim its fourth series victory in as many tries against the visiting Pirates.

This four-game set began Thursday with the Reds calling up David Holmberg to make his season debut to replace Johnny Cueto, who was traded to Kansas City. Holmberg got the win by allowing two runs in six innings of a 15-5 victory.

It was a similar story Saturday when Raisel Iglesias faced Pittsburgh for the first time and emerged victorious, giving up two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3 win.

Eugenio Suarez had three RBIs - two off major league wins leader Gerrit Cole - as Cincinnati (47-55) won for the fourth time in five games.

"It was a really good night for me and the team," said Suarez, hitting .364 in six games against Pittsburgh this year.

The Reds are 9-3 in the season series and would be in position to sweep if it weren't for a 5-4 loss Friday which saw Starling Marte throw out a runner at the plate in the ninth and make a game-ending diving catch. That is Pittsburgh's only win in its last eight games in Cincinnati.

Marte had another diving grab Saturday but had a 10-game hitting streak snapped. Jung Ho Kang homered for the third time in five games and is batting .449 in his last 13.

Sampson (0-0, 0.00 ERA) made his major league debut against the Pirates (60-43) on Thursday, striking out two in one perfect inning, but didn't face any of Pittsburgh's regulars. He's filling an opening in the rotation created later that night when Mike Leake was dealt to San Francisco.

"We didn't know when he pitched that day that he'd be the Sunday starter, so it wasn't a prelim to the Sunday start," manager Bryan Price told MLB's official website. "... It's a spot start. There's no guarantees beyond (Sunday), but it does give us a better chance to look at him and give him a chance to use his full mix."

For now, the 24-year-old right-hander gives the Reds a rotation of five rookies - Michael Lorenzen and Anthony DeScalfani are the others - now that Leake and Cueto are gone. Sampson was 2-4 with a 5.08 ERA in eight games for Triple-A Louisville but did throw eight scoreless innings July 24 in his last start.

He'd be helped by Cincinnati starting fast again, having totaled seven runs in the first two innings during this series.

That doesn't bode well for Charlie Morton (6-4, 4.61). Sixteen of the 38 runs he's allowed have been in the first. Opposing batters are hitting .370 through Morton's first 30 pitches and .190 on pitches 31-to-90.

Morton is 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in three games since the All-Star break and winless in five straight due partly to poor control, issuing 15 walks and hitting four batters in 30 1-3 innings.

He's 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last six starts against the Reds. Todd Frazier is 7 for 15 with five extra-base hits against him, including two homers.

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