The Pirates need to turn things around soon. Coming off a 2-4 road trip, Pittsburgh's starting-pitching woes have led to a less-than-desirable start, and manager Clint Hurdle was bullish on the importance of his club finding its footing in this week's homestand against the Orioles and Nationals.
"You can never recapture games; 44 are gone," Hurdle said prior to Tuesday's 9-2 loss to the Orioles. "What needs to start now, our overall consistency has to get better. We've got to find a way to execute at a championship level."
One glaring problem has been the inability of starting pitchers to keep foes scoreless even through three innings, which has happened only three times in 18 games this month. While Tuesday's starter Francisco Liriano held the O's to a pair of two-out singles through three, he fell apart in allowing six runs over the next two frames and exited after five innings.
Wednesday's starter, Wandy Rodriguez, has also demonstrated this problem early on in games, allowing at least one run in the first three innings in all five of his starts this season.
"We've been playing a lot more games uphill than we would like," Hurdle said. "We've had a lot of discussions about that, in touching on areas where we have to improve to push this forward and be the best we can be. That's definitely one of the areas we've defined."
The Orioles have also had starting-pitching issues through the season's first month and a half, but right-hander Chris Tillman is coming off his first career shutout, a 117-pitch gem that lifted the Orioles to a 4-0 victory over the Royals on Friday night.
"I've been struggling a little bit recently," said Tillman, who had gone just five innings and allowed five walks in his previous start against Houston. "We've been putting in a lot of hard work, not just me but everybody. It's good to see [the results]."
O's: Baltimore probably won't get Britton at-bats in finale
The Orioles chose one reliever to take batting practice on the team's last homestand in anticipation of this Interleague set, and it was lefty Zach Britton.
But Britton, who boasts a .625 career batting average from his time as a starter in 2011, probably won't get a chance at the plate in the finale of the O's two-game set against the Pirates, as the first-time reliever recorded his first career save on Thursday.
Manager Buck Showalter said Britton's potential hitting wouldn't change how he used him in the series, and he made former National League pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris -- neither of whom started in the series -- designated potential pinch-hitters. Norris has a .147 career batting average in 170 at-bats, while Jimenez is a .114 hitter over 273 at-bats.
Pirates: 1979 World Series champs take a bow
A large contingent of players and other personnel from the Bucs' 1979 club will be on hand Wednesday for a pregame celebration of the organization's most recent World Series title -- secured over the Orioles.
Players from that team that fought back from a 3-1 deficit expected to attend include Dave Parker, Bill Madlock, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennett, Phil Garner, Mike Easler, Tim Foli, Bruce Kison, Matt Alexander, Grant Jackson, Lee Lacy, Omar Moreno, Steve Nicosia, Ed Ott, Don Robinson, Jim Rooker and Kent Tekulve. Also on hand for on-field pregame ceremonies will be coaches Al Monchak and Bob Skinner -- the left fielder on the '60 championship Bucs -- and long-time trainer Tony Bartirome.
• Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP, has not had an extra-base hit since May 5, a stretch covering 36 at-bats.
• Injured Pirates closer Jason Grilli will throw his second simulated game in as many days on Wednesday, and if all goes well, he could be activated for the weekend series against the Nationals.
• Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy threw 18 pitches on Tuesday while facing the Twins' extended spring team for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
• Director of player development Brian Graham served as Baltimore's third-base coach on Tuesday with Bobby Dickerson attending his daughter's high school graduation. Graham filled in as bench coach when John Russell stepped in for manager Showalter in Kansas City on Saturday night and lives a short drive outside of Pittsburgh, in Cranberry Township.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.