Rowdy Tellez, Pirates aim for series win over Cardinals

Rowdy Tellez is beginning to look like the player the Pittsburgh Pirates envisioned in the middle of their lineup when they signed him to a free-agent deal in the offseason.

Tellez will try to continue his hot streak when the Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals in the rubber game of their three-game series on Thursday afternoon.

The veteran first baseman went 3-for-4 with a solo home run in a 5-4 win in 10 innings against the Cardinals on Wednesday night, raising his batting average to .243.

That’s a big improvement from the .177 he was hitting at the end of May, which had many wondering if the one-year, $3.2 million contract he signed in the offseason was a bad investment.

“The first two months, he never changed who he was,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “He owned up to the fact that he was scuffling, he owned up to the fact that he needed to be better, he owned up to his work. So, I think that speaks to the testament of who he is, that he didn’t change.”

St. Louis plans to send right-hander Andre Pallante to the mound in the series finale.

Pallante (4-3, 4.50 ERA) has made six starts this season to go along with nine relief appearances.

He has won his past two starts, pitching into the sixth inning in both games.

“I’m just trying to build off every outing,” Pallante said

He most recently blanked the Cincinnati Reds on four hits over 5 1/3 innings in a 1-0 win Friday.

“We’ve seen a little bit of an evolution from being timid to going out there and having some presence about him,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’s a big change. The mentality is different, the approach is different, and you can visibly see it.”

Pallante said he has been working on the mental side of the game, including reading books on the subject.

“In games, I’m getting mentally tired because I’m much more focused now than when I first came up,” he said.

Pallante has made 13 relief appearances against the Pirates in his career and is 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA.

The Pirates plan to start left-hander Martin Perez (1-4, 5.28).

Perez is winless in his past 10 starts, going 0-4 in that span with a 5.90 ERA.

He struggled in his most recent outing after coming off the injured list with a left groin strain. He surrendered six runs on eight hits over four innings in a 6-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

“I think we see (that) when Martin’s effective, he can run the fastball in and then run the changeup off it on the other side,” Shelton said.

Perez liked his stuff in his most recent outing, but said sometimes the hitters are just better.

“Sometimes, you throw the pitch and they’re ready to hit,” he said. “I got a lot of soft contact, and I was throwing good pitches in. They were just on it. That’s the game. That’s what happens when you face good hitters, and these guys can hit the ball.”

Perez had made three starts in his career against St. Louis and is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA.

–Field Level Media