May 17, 2014

The road hasn't been kind to the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose record away from home is among the worst in baseball.

Charlie Morton hasn't been able to pick up a win no matter where he's pitched since September, though that's in part due to a lack of run support.

The right-hander takes the mound Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees, who are looking for a fourth consecutive win.

Pittsburgh (17-24) lost 7-1 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday after Friday's scheduled series opener was rained out, falling to 5-13 on the road with its fourth defeat in the last five games overall.

Despite some solid performances, Morton (0-5, 3.22 ERA) also has struggled to get into the win column lately. He has a 2.13 ERA over his last four starts, but he's taken the loss in three while receiving a total of six runs of support.

The Pirates have provided him with two runs or fewer in seven of his eight outings, including last Sunday when he allowed four runs - one earned and all in the first inning - over six innings of a 6-5 loss to St. Louis.

"We kept chipping away and we almost pulled it out but I can't give up four runs there, especially in the first inning," Morton said. "It put us in a bad spot from the start."

The right-hander is 0-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 13 starts since beating Milwaukee on Sept. 2, and he'll look to end that winless stretch against a Yankees team that has allowed one run during its winning streak.

New York (22-19) got five scoreless innings from starter David Phelps on Saturday. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann hit two-run homers, and Zoilo Almonte, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano added solo shots.

The Yankees, who had lost four straight prior to their streak, will send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound in Game 1 as he looks to snap out of his funk.

Kuroda (2-3, 4.62) has a 5.20 ERA over his last six starts after giving up four runs in six innings of the Yankees' 9-7 loss to the New York Mets on Monday. He's given up at least four runs four times in that stretch.

"Obviously, the (two) home runs changed the momentum of the game," Kuroda said. "As bad as I was, I was trying to hang in there."

The right-hander has been stellar against the Pirates, though, going 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA in seven career starts. However, each of those outings came before 2012 while Kuroda was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gerrit Cole will make his first start against the Yankees in Game 2 as he opposes Vidal Nuno.

Cole (3-3, 3.76) labored through 5 2-3 innings Tuesday against Milwaukee, throwing 102 pitches while allowing three runs and walking three in a 5-2 defeat. It marked the second time in three starts he failed to complete six innings, but manager Clint Hurdle felt the 23-year-old Cole took another step in his progression.

"He stays in control of what he can stay in control of," Hurdle said of the right-hander. "Even when he might miss his location or do what he planned to get done, he's just got to move on and he's shown a lot of progress in that area."

Nuno (1-1, 6.43) posted a 3.54 ERA through his first four starts, but he gave up seven runs - five earned - and walked four over 3 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 12-7 loss to the Mets. He's pitched fewer than five innings in three of his starts as a replacement in the rotation for Ivan Nova, who is out for the season after Tommy John surgery.

"It's not something that we can go to our bullpen in the second inning. We just physically can't do it right now," manager Joe Girardi said. "You can't ask these guys to continue to do this. It's not fair to them and their careers, so I knew I had to leave (Nuno) out there (as long as I could)."

The left-hander has never faced the Pirates, who have lost eight of 10 meetings with the Yankees since winning Game 7 of the 1960 World Series on Bill Mazeroski's famous walk-off homer. They haven't won in the Bronx since Game 5 of that series.

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