Road trips on an opposite coast are taxing for a team. But as the Pirates begin the last leg of their 10-game journey out west in Arizona, they can be confident their bullpen will still be relatively fresh for a four-game set with the D-backs.
That's primarily because of Vance Worley's shutout Monday and Francisco Liriano's seven innings of one-run ball Tuesday, beating the Giants twice before dropping the series finale, 7-5, on Wednesday.
"Big boost for everybody. Gives energy to everybody," said manager Clint Hurdle. "That's the challenge of this road trip. ... You get these breathers, very, very helpful to what we're trying to get done on this road trip."
The Pirates will turn to left-hander Jeff Locke in the opener at Chase Field to keep his bullpen breathing a little more.
Locke is coming off a subpar showing Saturday against the Rockies at Coors Field. The southpaw allowed six earned runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over 6 2/3 innings in an 8-1 loss.
It was first time since Locke's first start of the season May 5 that he surrendered more than three earned runs, and he'd strung together eight consecutive quality starts before his rough outing at Colorado.
Locke said there were some mental obstacles to overcome when pitching against the same team in two straight starts. He limited the Rockies to three earned runs over six innings in Pittsburgh on July 20.
"I think it gets in my head a tad bit when you play a team you don't see a lot during the season, but somehow you face them twice in a row," said Locke, who is 2-2 with a 3.54 ERA.
The D-backs will counter with Josh Collmenter, who had perhaps the roughest start of his career his last time out against the Phillies on Saturday. The right-hander surrendered six earned runs on 11 hits before D-backs manager Kirk Gibson pulled the right-hander with two outs in the third inning.
"He didn't have it," Gibson said after the game. "I stayed with him as long as I could."
The lackluster performance was relatively unexpected, as Collmenter allowed only one earned run over seven innings in each of his previous two starts, the latter of which resulted in his eighth win.
D-backs: Towers cooking up potential deals
With Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline swiftly approaching, general manager Kevin Towers said he is waiting on word from several teams about potential moves.
"It's kind of in the other ballclub's court right now," Towers said before the D-backs' 5-4 win over the Reds on Wednesday afternoon. "I think we all know there's a couple of potential deals out there that we've told clubs that to move this particular player, this is what we'd do. If they meet that, we do something. If not, we don't."
Towers said he doesn't like to be in a seller's position considering the D-backs have been in "buy mode" for each of the past three seasons. But if provided with an intriguing offer, Towers said he would be open to dealing from his depth in the infield, which includes veterans Martin Prado and Aaron Hill.
"In the right deal, maybe," said Towers, who noted his team's biggest needs as starting pitching, catching and outfielders. "But I think when you look at our middle infielders, I really don't want to part with any of them, especially our young guys."
Pirates: Alvarez still out of the lineup
For the first time in memory, Pedro Alvarez on Wednesday was a healthy scratch for a second straight game in which the Pirates faced a right-handed starter.
Thus, while Alvarez works overtime on reigniting both sides of his game, this much becomes clear: Josh Harrison, the apparent eternal reserve, has played the All-Star third baseman to the bench.
"It's pretty simple at the end of the day: He's not outplaying Harrison," Hurdle said to explain why Alvarez was left off his afternoon lineup against the Giants' Tim Lincecum. "We need to pay attention to the whole team."
As for potentially playing in the D-backs series, Alvarez only has three career hits in Chase Field -- but two of them are home runs.
• Pirates first baseman Ike Davis is 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a homer against Collmenter in his career.
• Locke has allowed five homers in his last two starts -- after yielding a total of three in the first eight.
• Pirates catcher Russell Martin (off Wednesday) has reached base in 57 of his 65 games this season and is carrying an average (.279) 55 points above his career mark.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB. Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. He also can be found on Twitter @danielrpopper. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.