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Pirates, Blue Jays in chase position

Sports Xchange - Friday 11th August, 2017

TORONTO -- The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Toronto Blue Jays hope to use their recent success to propel them on late-season runs for potential postseason spots.

The teams open a three-game interleague series Friday night at Rogers Centre.

The Pirates will start right-hander Jameson Taillon (6-5, 4.60 ERA) against Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman (10-5, 3.17).

The Pirates (57-58) defeated the Detroit Tigers 7-5 on Thursday at Comerica Park to win three games in a four-game, home-and-home interleague series.

Pittsburgh has won six of its past eight games. The Pirates are fourth in the National League Central, but they are just three games out of first place.

"We'll move this one behind us and get ready for Toronto," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're working to play our best baseball as the season goes on. It's an explosive ballclub in Toronto, especially at home, so it should be a good matchup, and we're looking forward to it."

The Blue Jays (54-60) defeated the New York Yankees 4-0 on Thursday night. They are last in the American League East but are only four games out of the second American League wild-card spot, which is a long shot for them because of the number of teams they would need to pass.

"I think it's only a matter of time before this team goes on a nice winning streak," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said. "We've got about a month and a half left, and we're finally getting everyone healthy.

"You're starting to see some signs of guys swinging the bat good. Some of our pitchers who were struggling earlier in the year are starting to figure it out."

Taillon has never faced the Blue Jays in the regular season. The 25-year-old is 0-2 in his past three outings since winning July 20 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

He is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five career interleague starts and is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three interleague starts this year.

Stroman is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA over his past six starts. Opposing hitters batted .268/.355/.342 in those games.

He will be making his first career start against the Pirates. His only appearance against Pittsburgh came in 2014, when he allowed one hit and one run in two-thirds of an inning.

"We get Stroman (on Friday) night," Hurdle said. "That's a pretty good young pitcher we're going to get to see, and we kind of like our guys, so we're looking forward to going up there and playing."

Stroman is 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in four interleague starts this season. He is 8-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 14 career interleague appearances, including 11 starts.

The Blue Jays are 7-7 this season in interleague games, and the Pirates are 7-8.

"It's kind of been a disaster of a season up until this point, as far as our record is concerned, as far as keeping guys on the field," Pillar said. "It never seemed like we could get on a roll. Despite everything that has gone on, we're still four games back of the wild card. I know there's a lot of teams ahead of us, but a lot of those teams are in our division and we're going to be playing them a lot."

The Pirates used Andrew McCutchen as designated hitter Thursday, the fifth player they have used at DH in seven interleague road games this season.

"We've got some guys we can take advantage of that opportunity and get a guy like (Gregory) Polanco or McCutchen off his feet on occasion," Hurdle said. "There may be a day for (David) Freese. We're going to face a left-handed pitcher toward the end in J.A. Happ, and it's three days on turf. We've mapped it down."

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