The Phillies and Pirates open up a weekend series in Pittsburgh with Philly looking to snap a two-game losing streak and the Pirates trying to regroup after blowing a seven-run lead in a loss to the Mets.

Cole HamelsPhiladelphia sends its hottest hurler to the hill as Cole Hamels goes for a share of the major league lead in victories. Pittsburgh will counter with Jeff Karstens who has lost his last two appearances. Game time is 7:05 PM ET at PNC Park with the the baseball odds boards favoring Phillies with price tag in the $1.50 range at most MLB betting outlets, with the total at 7.5.

SBR Forum poster Shortstop has sided with the Phillies, and questions "the Pirates' mindset and morale after that awful collapse in New York" against the Mets.

While the Philadelphia Phillies enjoyed a off-day, the Pirates (26-29) were sifting through the rubble of a colossal collapse in New York. Pittsburgh built a 7-0 lead in the third-inning only to see the Mets rally for a 9-8 victory.

Overshadowed by the stunning setback was a big game for Xavier Paul who went 4 for 5 with two stolen bases and three runs scored. Three other Pittsburgh players had two hits apiece including Neil Walker who belted his seventh home run of the season and drove in four runs. Despite the defeat the Pirates have won 17 games on the road equal to their season total of a year ago.

Hamels is Hot

On a pitching staff featuring Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, Hamels (7-2, 3.01) has arguably been Philadelphia’s best starter of late. The Southern California lefthander has won his last three starts allowing just six runs and 17 hits while striking out 22 in 21 innings of work. Hamels is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in four previous starts against the Pirates who are hitting just .217 at home this season including a .230 average against lefties.

Karstens (3-4, 3.58) has bounced around between the starting rotation and the bullpen and his numbers have suffered as a result. In a starting role on Sunday he allowed three runs in five innings in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs. Prior to that he appeared in relief and gave up the deciding runs in a 4-2, 11 inning setback against the Braves. 

Elevator Ride

The Phillies offense has been inconsistent to say the least. Following a stretch in which they scored 49 runs in eight games the managed a total of three runs in the final two games of the Washington series. Charley Manuel’s team, which has scored one run or fewer in 10 games this year, should get a lift with the return of Shane Victorino who has been sidelined since May 18 with a hamstring injury. Victorino is hitting .284 with six homers and 19 runs batted in.

The Phillies need Jimmy Rollins to break out of his slump. Rollins, who broke an 0 for 9 skid with a pinch-hit single in Wednesday’s loss to the Nationals, is batting just north of the Mendoza line (.216) in his last 20 games. It would behoove the Phillies to get Chase Utley jump started. The all-star second baseman is 6 for 31 with just one homer since coming off the disabled list.

One player they’re not worried about is Ryan Howard who has three homers, seven RBI’s and a batting average of .311 over an 11 game stretch.

Crunching numbers

The Phillies have enjoyed a moderate amount of success on the road posting a 15-12 record. On the flip side the Pirates have one of the worst home marks in baseball at 9-14.

The ‘under’ has cashed in 11 of the last 16 meetings and the Pirates are 14-8 to the low side at home. However the Phillies are on 8-1-1 run to the ‘over’.

The Pirates took the season series in 2010 winning four of the six meetings including 3 of 4 at PNC Park. 

Tonight’s weather forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with light winds and a 10 percent chance of rain. The game time temperature is expected to be near 70.