Pirates open final homestand against Astros, starting lineup

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The Pirates open their final homestand of the season tonight with a 7:05 start against the Houston Astros at PNC Park. Steve Pearce, who has hit safely in seven of his past eight starts and has a homer in three lifetime at-bats against Astros starter Randy Wolf (4-2, 4.26), gets the nod in right field. Brandon Moss gets the night off. Ian Snell (6-11, 5.69) will start for the Pirates (64-89), who are one loss away from their fourth consecutive 90-loss season.

Starting lineups

Astros — Kazuo Matsui 2B, Michael Bourn CF, Miguel Tejada SS, Lance Berkman 1B, Geoff Blum 3B, Hunter Pence RF, Ty Wigginton LF, Humberto Quintero C, Randy Wolf LHP

Pirates — Nyjer Morgan LF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Steve Pearce RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Luis Cruz SS, Ian Snell RHP

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Wilson’s last hurrah?

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Jack Wilson realizes the roster upheaval that began when the new front office group took over a year ago will continue this offseason. And he’s heard the whispers that say he might be traded. With 10 games left in the season, Sunday might be the final time Wilson plays for the home team at PNC Park.

“I have no expectations,” Wilson said this morning. “I don’t know if I’ll even got to play in a game. I’m not gonna say, ‘Hey, put me in. It could be my last game here.’ But if there’s an opportunity where I could help, I want to do it.”

Wilson has a fractured right index finger, but has been cleared to swing a bat — although he’s doing it with essentially half a grip. Even so, I’d expect manager John Russell to give Wilson a victory lap in front of the fans by using him as a pinch-hitter or -runner in Sunday’s home finale.

Lineups for today’s game:

DODGERS — Martin C, Ethier RF, Ramirez LF, Blake 3B, Loney 1B, Kemp CF, DeWitt 2B, Berrora SS, Kershaw (4-5, 4.41) LHP

PIRATES — Morgan LF, Cruz SS, McLouth CF, Michaels RF, Adam LaRoche 1B, Andy LaRoche 3B, Gomez 2B, Maholm (9-8, 3.68) LHP

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Pirates ready to supply the Power

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The Pirates today announced they’ve signed a two-year agreement with the West Virginia Power of the Class A South Atlantic League. Charleston replaces Hickory as the team’s low-A affiliate.

Charleston was the Pirates’ Triple-A team from 1971-76.

Jack Wilson (broken right index finger) took a couple dozen swings on the field today during pregame batting practice.

“I’m not letting my (broken) finger touch the bat as I swing,” Wilson said. “It’s a little unorthodox, but it works. I have a lot less power and bat control, but I’m not up there to hit home runs.”

Wilson hopes to be used as a pinch-hitter before this final homestand is over.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

DODGERS — Martin C, Ethier RF, Ramirez LF, Blake 3B, Garciaparra 1B, Kemp CF, Ozuna 2B, Berrora SS, Billingsley (15-10, 3.02) RHP

PIRATES — Morgan LF, Sanchez 2B, McLouth CF, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Moss RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Bixler SS, Duke (5-14, 4.84) LHP

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Pirates try Dodgers again

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Pirates right-hander Jeff Karstens (2-5, 4.46 ERA), who has lost his past five decisions, will meet Derek Lowe (13-11. 3.48 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park in the second game of the three-game series with the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. Adam LaRoche, who is 1 for 11 lifetime against Lowe (the one hit was a home run) will get the day off. Doug Mientkiewicz will start at first. Jack Wilson (finger) is back in uniform and could begin hitting soon. Luis Cruz, hitting .294, will make his seventh consecutive start at shortstop.

Starting lineups

Dodgers – Russell Martin C, Andre Ethier RF, Manny Ramirez LF, James Loney 1B, Casey Blake 3B, Blake DeWitt 2B, Juan Pierre CF, Angel Berroa SS, Derek Lowe RHP.

Pirates – Nyjer Morgan LF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Brandon Moss RF, Doug Mientkiewicz 1B, Andy LaRoche 3B, Luis Cruz SS, Jeff Karstens RHP.

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Pirates try for fourth win in a row, starting lineups

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The Pirates will try to extend their winning streak to four games, which would equal their second-longest of the season, when they play the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers at 7:05 tonight at PNC Park in the opener of a four-game series.

Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 8.10 ERA) will make his third start since being recalled on Sept. 2. The Dodgers, who are 12-2 in their past 14 games, will start right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (8-10, 3.93 ERA).

Manny Ramirez, who is hitting .500 with two home runs and six RBI in three career games at PNC Park, will bat third for the Dodgers.

Starting lineups

Dodgers – Russell Martin C, Juan Pierre CF, Manny Ramirez LF, James Loney 1B, Nomar Garciaparra 3B, Matt Kemp RF, Blake Dewitt 2B, Angel Berroa SS, Hiroki Kuroda, RHP.

Pirates — Nyjer Morgan LF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Brandon Moss RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Luis Cruz SS, Ross Ohlendorf.

John Grupp

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Not much, but at least it’d be a streak

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The Pirate today are trying for what would be their fourth series sweep of the season. The other three came against the Astros (July 21-23), Giants (May 6-8) and Reds (April 11-13). The Pirates have swept the Cardinals twice at home since PNC Park opened in 2001.

The Pirates have won three games since reeling off a four-game string July 21-24. They also have not won on a Sunday since June 15.

Lineups for today’s game:

CARDINALS — Schumaker CF, Lopez 3B, Pujols 1B, Ludwick LF, Molina C, Miles 2B, Barton RF, Thompson (5-2, 4.61) RHP, Ryan SS

PIRATES — Sanchez 2B, CRuz SS, McLouth CF, Adam LaRoche 1B, Moss LF, Pearce RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Chavez C, Davis (1-4, 5.90) RHP

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Snell to start in place of Karstens

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With Jeff Karstens still recovering from a dental procedure to fix an abscessed tooth, Ian Snell (6-11, 5.54 ERA) will make the start tonight when the Pirates play the Cardinals at 7:05 at PNC Park. Freddy Sanchez is back in the lineup after missing the past three games with blurred vision. Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.85 ERA) will start for the Cardinals

Starting lineups

Cardinals — Skip Schumaker CF, Felipe Lopez 3B, Albert Pujols 3B, Ryan Ludwick LF, Josh Phelps RF, Aaron Miles SS, Adam Kennedy 2B, Adam Wainwright RHP, Jason LaRue C

Pirates – Nyjer Morgan LF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Brandon Moss RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Luis Cruz SS, Ian Snell RHP

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Gorzelanny done for year, starting lineups

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Manager John Russell announced this afternoon that left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (6-9, 6.66) won’t pitch again this year, bothered by a sprained middle finger on his left hand. Jimmy Barthmeier, who was heading to Pittsburgh anyway to spend three days getting acquainted with the big-league team, will take Gorzelanny’s spot in the rotation.

Here are the starting lineups tonight as the Pirates open – or at least try to – a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Two hours before the 7:05 p.m. scheduled first pitch, the tarps are out and the skies are rainy and gray. Paul Maholm (8-8, 3.74) will take on Joel Pineiro (6-5, 4.92).

Starting lineups

Cardinals – Cesar Izturis SS, Josh Phelps RF, Albert Pujols 1B, Ryan Ludwick CF, Felipe Lopez 3B, Nick Stavinoha LF, Jason LaRue C, Joel Pineirpp RHP, Brian Barden 2B.

Pirates – Nyjer Morgan LF, Luis Cruz 2B, Nate McLouth CF, Adam LaRoche 1B, Brandon Moss RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Raul Chavez C, Brian Bixler SS, Paul Maholm LHP.

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Pitching plans, travel plans

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HOUSTON — Manager John Russell this afternoon said the Pirates may stick with a six-man starting rotation, even if Tom Gorzelanny is done for the season.

Gorzelanny left last night’s game in the third inning after his left middle finger “popped” after he threw a slider. Russell suggested there could be ligament damage, which would shut down Gorzelanny until the spring.

Rather than go back to a five-man staff, Russell and GM Neal Huntington are mulling pulling somebody out of the bullpen or calling up someone from the minors to make two starts down the stretch. “We have options,” Russell said.

Gorzelanny will be examined by team doctors Friday, when the team returns to Pittsburgh. He won’t be the only player getting medical attention. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez will see a specialist about the blurry vision in his right eye.

A road trip which began with three sunny days in Cincinnati and included a minor earthquake in San Francisco will end tonight, just hours before Hurricane Ike makes landfall.

On a personal note, I want to express thanks to the Pirates for allowing me to return to Pittsburgh on the team charter. My Houston-to Charlotte-to Pittsburgh flight was not scheduled until tomorrow morning, making for the possibility that I’d be stranded in the path of the storm

There was a time when it was not an uncommon sight for reporters to ride on the team plane. But for obvious reasons — potential conflict of interest issues, deadline issues — beat writers pay their own way on commercial flights. Given the unusual circumstances today, team president Frank Coonelly and Russell gave the OK for myself and two other beat writers to fly home tonight.

My game story tomorrow might not have a lot of in-depth post-game quotes or analysis, and that’s something no reporter is ever happy about. But I’ll be able to get my kids off the school bus tomorrow instead of scrounging for food in a FEMA shelter, and that’s cool with me.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — McLouth CF, Rivas 2B, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Mientkiewicz 3B, Pearce RF, Moss LF, Cruz SS, Duke (5-13, 4.87) LHP

ASTROS — Erstad LF, Loretta 2B, Tejada SS, Berkman 1B, Pence RF, Castillo 2B, Abercrombie CF, Ausmus C, Oswalt (14-9, 3.72) RHP

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Capps and Castillo

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HOUSTON — The Houston Astros’ radio announcers were flummoxed for a moment Tuesday night when Pirates closer Matt Capps came in to pitch in the ninth inning of a 9-3 game.

“Well, I guess they put him out there to keep him sharp for the one or two times they’ll need him the rest of this season,” one of the radio guys said.

Ouch.

Check out who’s batting sixth and starting at second base tonight for the Astros. Ex-Bucco Jose Castillo was cut by Florida near the end of spring training and picked up by San Francisco. The Giants put him on waivers Aug. 20 and he reported to the Astros two days later.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES — Morgan LF, McLouth CF, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Moss RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Cruz 2B, Bixler SS, Gorzelanny (6-9, 6.64) LHP

ASTROS — Erstad LF, Loretta 2B, Tejada SS, Berkman 1B, Pence RF, Castillo 2B, Abercrombie CF, Quintero C, Moehler (10-6, 4.22) RHP

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