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Pirates turn to Williams hoping to cool scorching Twins

The Pittsburgh Pirates will turn to right-hander Trevor Williams to try and snap a six-game losing streak when they begin a five-game homestand on Wednesday night against Nelson Cruz and the red-hot Minnesota Twins.

The Pirates own baseball’s worst record at 2-9 and ended a five-game road trip by getting swept in a two-game series at Minnesota, capped by a 7-3 loss on Tuesday afternoon.

Williams (0-2, 5.40 ERA), who has never faced the Twins, started the road trip with a 6-3 loss to the Cubs in Wrigley Field on Friday, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings while striking out six.

Although over a sixth of the 60-game season is already behind them, Williams said it’s imperative for the Pirates not to press.

“It’s easy to fall into a trap in a season like we have where every loss kind of gets amplified where ‘Man, that loss counted as five or six,'” Williams told MLB.com. “But we showed up at the yard (Tuesday) expecting to win.

“It’s little things here and there that we’re tightening up. We’re all pulling for each other in this clubhouse knowing that we have the ability to string some wins together and get hot.”

Speaking of hot, no one is hotter than the 40-year-old Cruz, who leads the majors in RBIs (15) and is batting an eye-popping .737 (14-for-19) with runners on base. He went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in Tuesday’s win, Minnesota’s fifth in a row and the capper to a 7-1 homestand.

“No clue man,” Cruz replied when asked by a reporter if he had any reason for his hot start. “I just try to get good at-bats. It seems like when I have runners on base, that is when I’m at my best. I guess my focus goes up and the willingness to get something going for the team.”

Cruz said he had no idea he was batting over .700 with runners on base.

“I knew I was doing good, but I didn’t know the numbers,” he said. “It’s part of my job, you know? I’m not the fastest guy on the team so I guess my job when I find runners on base (is) to try and drive them in.”

Right-hander Randy Dobnak (1-1, 1.00), who grew up in the Pittsburgh area attending Pirates games, will make his first start against his hometown team.

Dobnak, who moved into the starting rotation when All-Star Jake Odorizzi went on the injured list with upper back tightness, has allowed just one run in nine innings in two starts. He pitched five shutout innings while picking up the win on Friday in a 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out four.

Minnesota’s 9-2 record ties the franchise record for its best start after 11 games. The Twins also did it in 2001 while the Washington Senators accomplished the feat in 1930.

“I feel in a good spot based on the way our guys played today,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “No doubt about that. All sides of the ball. After a long homestand, guys kept their focus and just continued to go out there and have great at-bats. Pitched well, played well in the field. … It was a great way to cap off the homestand, and a memorable one at that.”

–Field Level Media

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