Brandon Cumpton faces a daunting task on Saturday.
Not only is the 24-year-old set to make his Major League debut as he starts for the Pirates at PNC Park, but he'll be matched up against Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers' ace, with a National League Cy Young Award to his credit, leads the NL in ERA going into the second of this three-game series.
Pittsburgh will summon Cumpton for Saturday's game to fill in for veteran A.J. Burnett, who is on the disabled list with a Grade 1 tear of his right calf. The Pirates, who beat the Dodgers, 3-0, on Friday, have won five of their last seven.
Cumpton was the Pirates' ninth-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He posted a 3.84 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Altoona last year. After beginning the 2013 campaign there, he soon moved up to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he went 4-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts. In 65 1/3 innings, he struck out 49 and walked 22.
In his last start, Cumpton held the Orioles' Norfolk affiliate to two runs over seven innings, his fourth outing of seven-plus innings and no more than two runs allowed.
"I've been pretty consistent, always try go 6-7 innings, then turn it over to the bullpen," Cumpton said. "I think I've done a pretty good job of that so far."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will be happy if Cumpton can continue doing that.
"I've encouraged him to just pitch until we take him out of the game," Hurdle said. "Give us seven [innings], and we'll figure it out from there. If not seven, give us what you got, and we'll turn it over to the bullpen and see where it goes."
As for Kershaw, he'll be hoping that his team can provide him with a little more support.
The left-hander is only 5-4 despite a 1.88 ERA, a .195 opponents' average and 96 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings. The Dodgers have lost five of his past eight starts, scoring an average of three runs in those games. On Monday against the D-backs, Kershaw gave up one run in seven innings but saw his bullpen blow the lead.
Los Angeles has lost five of six after dropping the opener of its nine-game road trip.
Dodgers: Ellis back behind plate
Catcher A.J. Ellis was activated from the disabled list and got the start on Friday, striking out in all three of his at-bats. He hadn't played since May 29, thanks to a strained oblique.
Ellis entered Friday with a .364 on-base percentage that ranked second among qualifying Dodgers hitters. He was batting .262 with two home runs and 12 RBIs and was locked in a 2-for-19 skid before his injury.
In a corresponding move, the Dodgers designated veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez for assignment, keeping Tim Federowicz on the roster as Ellis' backup.
• Shortstop Hanley Ramirez made his first start since June 5 and went 0-for-4. Ramirez, battling a sore hamstring, had gone 1-for-3 with a walk off the bench between starts.
Pirates: Marte out again
Starling Marte missed his second consecutive start on Friday due to soreness in his rib cage. Once again, Alex Presley took his spot in left field and at the top of the lineup.
• Shortstop Clint Barmes went 0-for-3 on Friday and is 7-for-55 (.127) with two doubles, one RBI, no walks and 15 strikeouts in his past 18 games. His average has fallen to .198.
• Hurdle moved catcher Russell Martin up to the No. 2 spot on Friday, his first start there since April 30, and fourth this year. After a 1-for-3 night that included a walk, Martin is 7-for-21 with a double, a home run and six RBIs over his past six contests.
• Kershaw held the Pirates to two hits and struck out nine over seven scoreless innings on April 6 at Dodger Stadium. He has a 3.74 ERA in four career starts at PNC Park.
• Cumpton will be the first player from Pittsburgh's 2010 Draft class to play in the Majors.