Fundamentals first

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It’s four hours before game time and at least 90 degrees on the turf @ PNC Park, and the Pirates are working on their PFPs. Bunt drills. Rundowns. Grounders. And the ol’ pitcher-cover-first base play (which didn’t work so well in the ninth inning last night for Adam LaRoche and Matt Capps).

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

ROYALS — 1. DeJesus lf, 2. Bloomquist cf, 3. Butler 1b, 4. Guillen rf, 5. Olivo c, 6. Callaspo ss, 7. Teahen 3b, 8. Hernandez 6. Bruce Chen lhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Delwyn Young rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Robinzon Diaz c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Paul Maholm (4-4, 4.38) lhp

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Vasquez gets first major-league win in 5-3 victory

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Virgil Vasquez recorded his first major-league victory, as the Pirates powered past the Royals, 5-3, on Friday night at PNC Park.

Vasquez, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Indianapolis to replace demoted Ian Snell, allowed two runs on four hits in six innings. Vasquez (1-0) struck out seven and walked two.

Nyjer Morgan, Jason Jaramillo and Jack Wilson homered for the Pirates, who have won three in a row on the heels of a five-game losing streak.

Andrew McCutchen scored two runs but went 0 for 2 and saw his 13-game hitting steak snapped in the first Royals-Pirates game in Pittsburgh in eight years.

Matt Capps allowed a home run to Mark Teahen in the ninth, and the Royals had the tying run on first. But Capps struck out pinch-hitter Mike Jacobs for his 17th save and first since June 14.

Gil Meche (4-7) allowed four runs in five innings in his first career start against the Pirates. The loss comes five days after giving up nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 12-5 loss to the Cardinals.

Vasquez, cut loose by Detroit, Boston and San Diego, retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced, allowing a two-out single in the third and a two-out double in the sixth.

The Royals used a leadoff walk and back-to-back doubles by Alberto Callaspo and Miguel Olivo to take a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

The Pirates tied the score at 2-all on Morgan’s two-run homer in the bottom of the third off Meche. McCutchen was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Morgan lined a deep drive in the right-field seats for his second home run of the season.

After hitting one home run in the first 498 at-bats of his career, Morgan has two in his past 32 at-bats.

The Pirates took the lead for good in the fourth inning on Jaramillo’s solo home run for a 3-2 lead.

In the fifth, McCutchen walked, stole second, took third on Morgan’s bunt single and scored on Freddy Sanchez’s sacrifice fly.

Wilson’s two-out homer in the sixth, curving inside the left-field foul pole, made it 5-2.

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Pirates-Royals starting lineups

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Sorry about the delay in posting lineups. Swamped following up on NBA draft coverage and Pitt basketball on my regular beat.

PIRATES: 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Brandon Moss rf, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. J.J. Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. rhp Virgil Vasquez (2009 debut)

ROYALS: 1. David DeJesus lf, 2. Mitch Maier cf, 3, Billy Butler 1b, 4. Jose Guillen rf, 5. Mark Teahen 3b, 6. Alberto Callaspo 2b, 7. Miguel Olivo c, 8. Tony Pena ss, 9. rhp Gil Meche (4-6, 4.11)

— John Grupp

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Doumit goes to Bradenton on Sunday

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Catcher Ryan Doumit (broken bone in right wrist) will leave Sunday for Bradenton, Fla., to work out at the spring training facility. He has been catching bullpens, doing long toss and taking batting practice, and will get into game-type activities at Pirate City. Doumit could be on track to return to the Pirates by the end of July. “We are very pleased with his progress,” GM Neal Huntington said.

• The Futures Game has a solid reputation as a mile-marker of sorts on the road to the majors. There are 190 players on active major league rosters, including Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer and CC Sabathia, who played in the annual All-Star Week contest.

Among the Pirates who played in the Futures Game are Paul Maholm (2005) and Andrew McCutchen (2008). That’s good news for Pedro Alvarez and Brad Lincoln, who were selected for this year’s Futures Game in St. Louis.

But not everyone in the Pirates system has used the game as a launching pad to greatness. Consider: Yamid Haad (1999), J.R. House (2001), Tony Alvarez (2002), John Van Benschoten (2003) and Bryan Bullington (2004).

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Things in need of a jump start

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Here’s a funny coincidence: my car battery died this afternoon at about the same time as Ian Snell’s major league career expired. Joe Rutter, who has more than a little previous experience covering the Buccos, is all over the Snell story and has updates elsewhere on this Web site. Expect Virgil Vasquez to get the callup and move into the rotation.

Vasquez would start either Friday (if Charlie Morton’s gimpy hamstring is still too tender) or Sunday (in Snell’s regular spot).

• Nice to see Brandon Moss in the lineup today against a left-handed pitcher — a big vote of confidence from manager John Russell. “It’s time to take the training wheels off and let him face a left-hander,” Russell said, grinning.

• There’s a very good chance catcher Ryan Doumit (wrist) could head down to Bradenton, Fla., late next week to intensify his rehab workouts.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

INDIANS — 1. Jamey Carroll 2b, 2. Mark DeRosa rf, 3. Victor Martinez 1b, 4. Shin-Soo Choo lf, 5. Jhonny Peralta 3b, 6. Ben Francisco cf, 7. Luis Valbuena ss, 8. Kelly Shoppach c, 9. Cliff Lee (4-6, 2.94) lhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Brandon Moss rf, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (6-6, 4.94) rhp

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Snell remains in rotation … for now

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Despite last night’s brief, brutal outing, right-hander Ian Snell remains in the starting rotation — for one more start, at least.

GM Neal Huntington is pleased with the work Snell puts in with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, and believes he has the stuff to succeed in the majors as a starter.

“The thing with Ian is, he shows the positive flashes,” Huntington said. “He’s working hard in the bullpen (between starts). He’s doing a lot of the things Joe’s asking him to do. He’s been able to make some adjustments; it’s just applying them consistently. At some point in time, the flashes aren’t enough.”

Snell is frustrated by his game-day flops — the high pitch counts, the walks, the eight losses and sky-high ERA. He said the problem is physical — too many changes in his mechanics under three different pitching coaches — as well as mental.

“It’s a matter of keeping too much information out of my brain, thinking too much,” Snell said. “We (have) a game plan and it’s going through my head, like, ‘I’ve got to throw this here and that there,’ instead of just blocking it out and pitching the ball. I’m going to have to deal with it.”

More on this in tomorrow’s Trib.

• Infielder Brian Myrow was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for either cash or a minor leaguer to be named. He was assigned to Indianapolis. Myrow hit .277 with seven homers and 25 RBI in 48 games for Triple-A Charlotte.

• Bob Miscik, a Mt. Pleasant native, was chosen as one of the coaches for Team USA in the 2009 Futures Game during All-Star week. Miscik is manager of the Huntsville Stars, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Double-A affiliate. He played in the Pirates’ minor league system from 1980-86.

• The Royals have not yet named a starter for Saturday’s game at PNC Park, but it likely will be Sidney Ponson. The righty went 1-5 with a 7.27 ERA in 11 starts before being demoted to Triple-A. The Pirates saw Ponson during spring training, during a scrimmage against the Netherlands team for the World Baseball Classic.

• Infielder Calvin Anderson, the 12th-round draft pick last year, drove in the winning run Tuesday in the low Class A South Atlantic League all-star game. Anderson also went deep 13 times to win the league’s home-run derby.

• The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians appear to have dropped out of the running for Dominican phenom Miguel Sano. The Pirates and Twins are considered the frontrunners among a field of 8 to 10 possible suitors. Dominican players may begin signing with major league teams July 2.

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Morton still sore, so Vasquez is Plan B

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DENVER — Charlie Morton still is listed as the Pirates’ starter Friday against Kansas City, but that could change. The right-hander continues to battle a sore hamstring and might have to be skipped again. If so, the Pirates would call up Virgil Vasquez from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Vasquez, a right-hander, started last night for Indy, but was removed from the game after one inning.

“We’re taking it step by step,” manager John Russell said. “Charlie still feels (the hamstring strain) and he’s gonna feel it. A high hamstring (strain) can take a while to heal.”

• The Pirates are mulling a trade for reliever Luis Ayala, who was designated for assignment by the Twins. The Pirates have an open spot on the 40-man roster after Craig Monroe was DFA’ed. Ayala, 31, went 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA in 28 outings with Minnesota. Ayala’s salary is $1.3 million.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

INDIANS — 1. Jamey Carroll 2b, 2. Grady Sizemore cf, 3. Victor Martinez 1b, 4. Shin-Soo Choo lf, 5. Mark DeRosa rf, 6. Jhonny Peralta 3b, 7. Luis Valbuena ss, 8. Kelly Shoppach c, 9. Carl Pavano (6-5, 5.73) rhp

PIRATES — 1.Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Andy LaRoche 3b, 6. Brandon Moss rf, 7. Jason Jaramillo c, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. Zach Duke (7-5, 3.18) lhp

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Pirates fall to Indians 5-4

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A late rally fell short and the Pirates fell to the Indians, 5-4, on Tuesday night at PNC Park.

The Pirates, who failed to advance a runner past second base through eight innings, scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the bases on Indians closer Kerry Wood. But Wood got Adam LaRoche to fly out to right for his ninth save.

The Pirates have lost five in a row to fall a season-worst eight games under .500.

Indians rookie left-hander David Huff (3-2) pitched eight scoreless innings. He allowed four hits, striking out two and walking two to win for the third time in his past four starts.

Adam LaRoche hit a 454-foot homer that bounced into the Allegheny River to open the ninth. Brandon Moss and Jack Wilson hit RBI doubles to make it 5-3 and Andrew McCutchen hit a run-scoring single to center to cut the lead to 5-4 and extend his hitting streak to 11 games. McCutchen stole second and Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez walked, but Adam LaRoche flied out on a 3-2 pitch.

Pirates starter Ian Snell (2-8), coming off one of his best starts of the year, failed to survive the third inning while laboring with control problems. He allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in 2.2 innings.

Snell hasn’t won back-to-back starts since April 2008, a span of 43 starts. In his past 66 starts dating to early 2007, Snell has one two-game winning streak.

Jhonny Peralta homered and drove in three runs and Grady Sizemore, activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, went 2-for-4 with two RBI and added a dazzling over-the-shoulder catch in center field, as the Indians snapped a six-game losing streak.

Snell, who had three consecutive quality starts, threw 50 pitches in an excruciating third inning in which he allowed three hits and walked three batters, and still only retired two batters.

Only 19,109 fans showed up – many of them Indians fans – in what was by far the smallest crowd to see a Pirates-Indians game in Pittsburgh since interleague play began 12 years ago.

— John Grupp

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Indians-Pirates pregame notes

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• There remains no timetable for Tyler Yates’ return to throwing, according to manager John Russell. Yates is in Florida with right elbow inflammation. Craig Hansen (neck) also remains shut down from throwing.

• Manager John Russell echoed the sentiments of general manager Neal Huntington and president Frank Coonelly that the Pirates should play the Indians every year as part of their interleague schedule. He noted the Pirates don’t have any true geographical rivals in the NL Central – unlike the Phillies in the old NL East – and the Indians could fill that role.

“Having Cleveland each year would be a very good thing for us,” Russell said. “I think it would be good for us and good for baseball.”

• Andrew McCutchen is only the second rookie in the past 25 years to have a triple in three consecutive games. The other was Luke Scott with the Astros in 2006. Only one player since 1947 has reached five triples in fewer games than McCutchen’s 17. That was the Phillies’ Jeff Stone (Russell’s former teammate) in 1983-84.

• Shortstop Jack Wilson will move into a tie for fourth place in Pirates’ history by playing in his 1,103th game at shortstop tonight. He will tie Jay Bell.

— John Grupp

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Indians-Pirates starting lineups, Pearce starts in right

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Steve Pearce, recalled Saturday from Triple-A Indianapolis, will make his first start in right field and bat seventh as the Pirates begin a 10-game home stand with a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians at 7:05 tonight at PNC Park. Grady Sizemore, activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, will start in center field and bat second for the last-place Indians.

Starting lineups

Indians – 1. Jamey Carroll 2b, 2. Grady Sizemore cf, 3. Victor Martinez c, 4. Shin-Soo Choo rf, 5. Mark DeRosa lf, 6. Jhonny Peralta 3b, 7. Luis Valbuena ss, 8. Chris Gimenez 1b, 9. lhp David Huff (2-2, 7.09 ERA)

Pirates – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Nyjer Morgan lf, 3. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Robinzon Diaz c, 6. Andy LaRoche 3b, 7. Steve Pearce rf, 8. Jack Wilson ss, 9. rhp Ian Snell (2-7, 5.08)

— John Grupp

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