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The Pittsburgh Pirates had to wait several weeks into the season to see just
what they got with right-hander Joe Musgrove in an offseason trade with
Houston.

It has been about a month since he came off the disabled list after a
shoulder injury delayed his season debut Trey
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 , and Musgrove has proved fiercely competitive and
fiercely loyal.

Musgrove is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA for Pittsburgh (35-35) going into his sixth
start Sunday, against right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (1-1, 5.40) and the
Cincinnati Reds (25-45) in a series finale at PNC Park.

With a 6-2 victory Saturday, the Pirates won their third straight, climbed
back to .500 and ensured themselves of winning a series after dropping eight in
a row.

The Reds have lost two straight after a three-game winning streak.

Not only is Musgrove averaging more than six innings per start, with 23
strikeouts in 25 innings and a 1.12 WHIP, but also has played with an edge.

“He’s a tough guy,” Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said last month. “When
he’s on the mound, he’s mean. He’s the kind of guy that you want to have on the
mound all the time.”

In his most recent outing, a no-decision Monday in Arizona’s comeback 9-5
win, Musgrove was cruising with a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning when he hit
Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Owings in acknowledged retaliation.

An inning earlier, Diamondbacks right-hander Braden Shipley hit Pirates
infielder Josh Harrison — who got plunked 23 times last year and spent time on
the DL this season and last because of a broken hand after being hit by pitches
— and Pittsburgh rookie Austin Meadows got knocked down by a pitch earlier.

“It’s nothing more than just protecting your teammates,” Musgrove said. “It’s
baseball. That’s how the game is played. That’s how I was raised to play the
game. You protect your teammates, especially when a guy gets hit high up and
in.”

The Pirates appreciated Musgrove’s loyalty Torey
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 , despite the fact that his retaliatory move might have
sparked Arizona’s winning rally.

“That wasn’t the turning point of the game in my eyes,” Pittsburgh manager
Clint Hurdle said. “You can’t control what other people are going to think.

“The importance of teammates taking a stand for one another, I think that is
part of the game. Everybody can construct their own narrative afterward. But I
know (Harrison) has been hit a ton, been hit a lot. … Just plunking our guys,
whether it’s accidental or not, is just not OK.”

Harrison said “it felt good” to have his new teammate stand up for him.

Musgrove has never faced the Reds.

DeSclafani has made six career starts against Pittsburgh, going 1-2 with a
3.41 ERA, but not since Sept. 17, 2016.

DeSclafani missed all of 2017 because of an elbow injury and, like Musgrove,
opened this season on the DL because of an oblique strain.

Last Sunday, in his second start this season, DeSclafani picked up his first
win since Sept. 28, 2016 Randy
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 , 6-3 over St. Louis. He gave up two runs and 10
hits in five innings, with six strikeouts and two walks.

“I don’t think I was as good as I wanted to be,” DeSclafani said. “There’s
definitely a lot of work from here on out. I was falling behind some guys and
giving up too many hits.

“But it’s definitely something to build on.”

He has yet to get his setup pitch, his curveball, back to where it once
was.

“Definitely still getting a feel for it. I only threw a few of them,” he
said. “It’s definitely got to be incorporated. I need some kind of equalizer to
(go along with) my fastball and slider. Once that comes around, it should make
things a little bit easier.”

Ian Kennedy was penciled in to start for the Royals on Wednesday night in the
series finale against the Cleveland Indians in Kansas City.

The operative word was “penciled.”

“Not in ink,” Kennedy said before playing catch in advance of Tuesday night’s
game.

Kennedy won’t be making that start. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list
retroactive to June 30 with a strained left oblique.

Manager Ned Yost said Kennedy felt a little something while playing catch, so
the Royals opted not to have him start.

“It doesn’t make any sense to push him,” Yost said. “We’ll bang him one
start. We don’t want to jeopardize it and then he could be out six to eight
weeks.”

Yost said Kennedy would probably miss just one start before being plugged
back into the rotation.

Kennedy agreed the cautious way was the better way.

“I’ve learned from the past of pitching through things,” he said. “And I’ve
learned my lesson that compensating is not always the best thing. It leads to
more and more soreness and stuff going on later in the season when you’re trying
to compensate and do things. So I’m going to be smart.”

Yost did not reveal who would take Kennedy’s rotation spot, but the Royals
will probably recall right-hander Trevor Oaks from Triple-A Omaha to start. Oaks
has not pitched since Friday, so Wednesday would be his normal day to pitch.

Oaks has put up some remarkable numbers with the Royals’ Pacific Coast League
affiliate recently. He is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in his last seven starts with the
Storm Chasers, allowing three earned runs and 29 hits over 42 innings in that
span. He has walked 11 and struck out 27.

Oaks Sergei
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 , 25, was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers as
part of a three-team trade on Jan. 4, which sent Joakim Soria to the Chicago
White Sox. Oaks was up briefly for the Royals earlier this season, going 0-1
with a 7.45 ERA in three appearances, including one start.

His lone start came on April 28 against the Chicago White Sox as the 26th man
on the roster in the second game of a doubleheader. He allowed five earned runs
on 12 hits over five innings, while walking one and striking out four.

The Indians used another grand slam, this one by Yan Gomes, to beat the
Royals 6-4 on Tuesday night in the middle game of the series. Francisco Lindor
hit a grand slam in the Monday victory. The Indians top the American League with
eight grand slams this season.

Right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is 7-6 with a 2.45 ERA, will start the series
finale for the Indians. This will be his 18th start this season and his 150th
career appearance.

Bauer lost his prior start, a 3-1 decision in Oakland. He allowed two runs on
six hits over 6 2/3 innings.

This will be Bauer’s third start this season against the Royals with the
first two at Progressive Field. He is 0-1 with a 3.55 ERA in the two starts.

For his career, Bauer is 2-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts against the Royals.
He is 2-1 with a 2.27 ERA in six starts at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals have lost five straight and 17 of 20. They have dropped to 35
games below .500 for the first time since ending the 2006 season at 62-100. They
have scored four or fewer runs in 24 of their past 25 games.

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