Braves-Pirates Preview

Andrew McCutchen's latest hit-by-pitch struck a nerve with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That's bad news for the Atlanta Braves, whose current losing streak is their longest of the season.

Seeking their sixth home sweep, the Pirates may be without the former MVP Sunday afternoon as they try to send the Braves to a sixth straight defeat.

McCutchen exited Saturday's contest in the first inning after taking a pitch off the left elbow. Pittsburgh responded with five runs immediately after McCutchen's injury en route to an 8-4 win in which Pedro Alvarez, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer each had a pair of RBIs.

But even after the Pirates' 15th home win in their last 19 games, McCutchen didn't hide his feelings about being plunked for the eighth time this season and second in as many days.

Pittsburgh batters have been hit a major league-high 40 times after leading baseball in that category the last two seasons.

''I'm not the only one ticked off,'' McCutchen said. ''We're all ticked off. It's not just me. It's anyone that gets hit and comes out of the game. That's something we don't like.''

X-rays were negative but McCutchen is questionable for the series finale. Manager Clint Hurdle certainly hopes he can keep that bat in the lineup, as McCutchen has reached safely in six straight while touting a .438 average with a homer and four doubles.

"It is (frustrating), there's no doubt," Hurdle said. "It gets everybody a little bowed up."

Even without McCutchen the Pirates' outfield still has Starling Marte, who continued his mastery of the Braves (35-40) with three hits and three runs on Saturday. Marte is 13 for 31 (.419) with nine RBIs in his last eight meetings with Atlanta.

The Braves now turn to Alex Wood (4-5, 3.44 ERA), who has lost his last three decisions starting with a 3-0 defeat against Pittsburgh (42-32) on June 7 in which he allowed three runs over five innings. The left-hander has a 1.18 WHIP in three career starts against the Pirates, but has received only four total runs of support while going 0-2.

The Braves have been producing offensively at a similar clip over their last six games, scoring nine total runs. They're 3-10 on the road this month.

Jace Peterson's slump had been the most notable of Atlanta's individual struggles, as the second baseman had gone 0 for 17 over his previous four games before breaking out with two hits and three RBIs Saturday.

"This game is about confidence. Believe it or not, these guys live from at-bat to at-bat," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB's official website. "Here's a young guy that doesn't let anything else affect him. ... Hopefully this will catapult him into a nice streak."

Peterson could get his first look at Jeff Locke (4-3, 4.73), who allowed four runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 Atlanta win on June 6. That lowered his ERA in five career starts against the Braves to 6.08.

The left-hander lasted only four innings Tuesday against Cincinnati, allowing 11 baserunners and four runs - two earned - before the Pirates rallied to win 7-6. Locke has been at his best at home, though, posting a 3.17 ERA that's in stark contrast to his 7.28 mark on the road.

Chris Johnson is 5 for 12 with two homers and two doubles against Locke in his career, and his .388 average off lefties since 2013 is by far the best in the majors.


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