Sports Network) – It was no secret the Philadelphia Phillies were in need of a right-handed bat. On Friday, they got their man and are expected to debut Hunter Pence tonight in the second of three straight meetings with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
The NL East leaders acquired the All-Star outfielder in a deal with the Houston Astros. In return, the Astros netted minor leaguers Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid along with a player to be named later.
The Phillies, who also received cash in the transaction, have been lacking in production from the right side of the plate since losing Jayson Werth to free agency in the offseason.
They appeared to have found an adequate replacement with Friday’s trade.
Pence is batting .308 this season with 11 home runs and 62 RBI, which led the Astros in each category. He started yesterday’s game against the Brewers before being pulled in the fifth inning.
“We tried to address a need we felt was a missing piece. We believe in our offense as it stands, but it’s been a little inconsistent,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “It gives us a little more balance … It gives us someone who is extremely well-rounded.”
Viewed as a cornerstone for a rebuilding Astros club, the 28-year-old Pence is headed to a team that has made the playoffs each of the past four seasons. He’s expected to bat in the middle of the lineup and could be inserted in right field starting tonight against the Pirates.
The Phillies, who enter this evening holding a five-game lead on Atlanta in the division, will have lefty Cliff Lee on the hill as he tries to snap an uncharacteristic four-game winless skid. Lee has given up 14 runs in that time and is 0-2. Most recently, he allowed 10 hits and five runs in a loss to the Padres on Monday.
This will be Lee’s second career start against the Pirates.
Countering for Pittsburgh will be 26-year-old right-hander James McDonald. He fanned a career-high nine batters and tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings of a 3-1 win at Atlanta Monday. He has won seven of his last nine decisions after losing his first two to start the season and is 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA in four starts this month. He brings an 11 2/3 inning scoreless stretch into tonight’s game. He’s also 3-0 in his last five road starts.
McDonald walked five batters and lost a 7-3 decision to Roy Halladay at PNC Park on June 5.
Halladay was in dominant form last night, going seven scoreless innings in a 10-3 Phillies win. Halladay (13-4) gave up just one hit with five strikeouts to win his second straight start while Jimmy Rollins added a two-run home run for the Phils, who were coming off a three-game set against San Francisco that saw the team drop the final two games.
Charlie Morton (8-6) was tagged with the loss and was pulled after four innings as he gave up eight runs — six earned — on nine hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Pedro Ciriaco had a pinch-hit, two-run double in the loss.
“The first two innings he couldn’t get the ball down,” said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle about Morton. “We saw better stuff and results after the damage was done, which was unfortunate but I guess it’s something to build on.”
The Pirates enter Saturday in third place in the NL Central, 2 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee.
The Pirates took two of three games against the Phillies earlier this season at PNC Park from June 3-5. Pittsburgh is looking to capture a season series over Philadelphia for a second straight year after going 4-2 in 2010.