There are no reprieves for the D-backs as they chase the hottest team in baseball.
Arizona, fresh off a competitive series sweep over the Orioles, will play its next seven games against postseason contenders (Pittsburgh and Cincinnati) to start a 10-game trip, while first-place Los Angeles keeps grinding away.
The Pirates, though, have reason to welcome the D-backs.
Pittsburgh took a 1-5 record into its first game against Arizona on April 8, but the Pirates have posted a 70-44 record -- the best mark in Major League Baseball -- since that day.
The first-place Pirates lost five of six games on their last road trip, and they're home for three games before hitting the road again for a six-game trip. With that quick dip back to home, manager Clint Hurdle was asked if he looks at this segment of the schedule as a 16-day road trip.
"Guess it could be looked at that way," he said. "I don't. We get to go play in front of our crowd for three days, sleep in our beds, and wear the whites. I like the little break before we head back out."
Pittsburgh has held control of first place in the NL Central since a victory over St. Louis on July 30th, exciting news for a franchise that hasn't had a winning record since 1992.
Arizona will send Brandon McCarthy to the mound in Friday's series opener, and the Pirates will counter with highly touted youngster Gerrit Cole. McCarthy worked seven innings in his last start, his longest outing since coming off a two-month stint on the disabled list due to a shoulder injury.
"Today was good, just from the standpoint of I needed to get past that wall," said McCarthy after his last start, a 4-1 loss to the Mets. "Rehab appearances, you're on a set pitch limit so you kind of pitch up to that, and you kind of saw in Boston I got to a certain point and sort of hit the cliff."
Cole, the top overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has been impressive in his first turn through the Major Leagues. The 22-year-old is 5-5 with a 3.95 ERA in his first 11 starts for Pittsburgh, and he's allowed more than three earned runs in just one of his outings.
Prior to his promotion, Cole pitched to a 5-3 record and a 2.91 ERA for Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander has completed at least five innings in each of his first 11 starts in the Majors. Eight of Cole's first 11 starts have come at home, and the rookie has reached 134 innings between his two stops.
Arizona made a roster move prior to Wednesday's game, recalling outfielder Tony Campana from Triple-A Reno and optioning Tyler Skaggs back down. Campana will help the D-backs cover for Cody Ross, who suffered a season-ending hip injury over the weekend against the Mets.
D-backs: Clutch Goldschmidt
Few players have been better with the game on the line than first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt has four walk-off hits this season, and he's on his way to one of the best seasons in team history. The 25-year-old has already set a team record for the most home runs by a first baseman (29), and he's eight RBIs away from breaking another team mark for his position (110, by Adam LaRoche).
Pirates: Melancon nearly unhittable
Mark Melancon currently has the lowest ERA (0.81) among NL relievers. The right-hander has allowed just one earned run in his last 25 innings, a streak that dates back to June 7. Melancon has a 0.60 ERA in the ninth inning, and he's been scored on just twice in 15 ninth-inning appearances.
Melancon, acquired from the Red Sox in the offseason, posted a 6.21 ERA in 41 appearances for Boston last season. The former ninth-round draftee went to his first All-Star Game this season.
• Neil Walker went 0-for-5 with a sacrifice fly in Thursday's loss, but he's been productive since returning from the effects of a right oblique strain on July 23rd. Walker is batting .301 (25-for-83) since the All-Star break, and the Pittsburgh native has managed to hit for a .284 average in 49 home games this season.
"He's made some adjustments. This is the best offensive rhythm that he's had," said Hurdle. "Since he's come back, it's been much improved: Cleaner, using his hands, really calmed the body down, the stride. The right-handed swing has improved to where it's real good for me. When he's in rhythm, he's a run producer, and run scorer. Can hit him second or fifth, so I've been real encouraged by his production and contribution since he's been back. He's hitting the ball hard where it's pitched."
• All three of Arizona's games against Baltimore were decided by just one run.
• The D-backs lead the Majors with 26 wins in their last at-bat, and they're second in the NL behind Atlanta (38) with 35 comeback victories.
• Catcher Miguel Montero, sidelined by a back injury, will join Arizona's Rookie league affiliate and will serve as designated hitter on Saturday and Sunday.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.