For their weekend series finale Sunday against the visiting Oakland A's, the Pittsburgh Pirates can enjoy some normalcy in their rotation, but change is coming.
The Pirates featured outstanding starting pitching for the first month or so of the season, leading the National League in combined rotation ERA for a stretch.
That has slipped a bit lately in terms of performance, and now injuries are running interference. On Saturday, the Pirates placed right-hander Jameson Taillon, considered the staff ace, on the 10-day injured list because of a right elbow flexor strain. Starter Chris Archer already is on the IL because of a thumb problem.
"I probably noticed something was a little different with it back in spring training," Taillon said of his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery early in his career, but this is considered a separate injury.
"Having had surgery on that part of my arm, I wasn't sure what's wear and tear and what's a problem, so I was pitching with it and managing it until it got to the point that I realized this is probably something different."
Taillon will be shut down from throwing for at least four weeks. The Pirates have not announced how they will restructure the rotation beyond Sunday, although manager Clint Hurdle said at least initially, the team doesn't plan on using an opener.
Pittsburgh right-hander Jordan Lyles (2-1, 2.42 ERA) is scheduled, as was the case before the latest injury news, to face Oakland righty Frankie Montas (4-2, 2.97 ERA) on Sunday.
The Pirates lost another pitcher, reliever Keona Kela, who left because of shoulder discomfort Saturday after facing one batter.
The A's hope to have center fielder Ramon Laureano available Sunday. He fouled a pitch off his left foot during Friday's 14-1 win, and there was too much swelling for him to play Saturday. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that remaining in Friday's game probably made it worse, and that he still couldn't walk around as of Saturday.
The A's -- who have lost seven of their past eight, including a 6-4 game Saturday -- also hope to continue some of the offense they found in Friday's series opener, which included 16 hits. They had 10 hits Saturday.
"The timing was good," catcher Josh Phegley, who had a career-high eight RBI Friday to help Oakland smash its way out of a six-game losing streak, said of discovering some offense.
On the pitching side, Montas had his three-start winning streak broken Monday, when he gave up seven runs -- just one of them earned -- and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in a 9-4 loss at Boston.
Montas, who will be making his 20th career start, has never faced Pittsburgh.
The Pirates' Lyles has fallen back to earth some after giving up one earned run over his first three starts. Tuesday, he gave up two runs and three hits in four innings and got a no-decision in Pittsburgh's 6-4 comeback win at Texas.
In his only career start against Oakland, Lyles, then with Houston, gave up one run in seven innings in a 5-4 win Aug. 13, 2013.
--Field Level Media
Banged-up Pirates, reeling A's set for series finale