Pearce out with ankle injury

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CINCINNATI – Steve Pearce has a boot on his sprained right ankle and is using crutches after being injured in the second inning of Monday’s 7-5 loss against the Reds.

The extent of the damage is not yet known.

“My ankle’s pretty swollen, so we’ll have to wait until (Tuesday),” said Pearce, who will have an MRI exam in the morning. “I had X-rays and nothing’s broken.”

With one out, Jonny Gomes hit a smash down the line. Delwyn Young – making his seventh career start at third base and his first appearance there since April 23 – made a nice stop on his knees, but his throw was wild. Pearce dove for the ball, but it zoomed past him and caromed into shallow right field. Gomes wound up at second on the error.

Pearce chased down the ball and was injured making the throw to second base. His cleat caught and his ankle rolled. Pearce was examined by the trainer and stayed in the game – but quickly realized that was a mistake.

“The adrenaline made me think I could stay in,” Pearce said. “But as soon as the next pitch was thrown, I couldn’t wait for the inning to end.”

• Ronny Cedeno hit a two-run homer in the second inning. He’s hit three of his four homers this season against the Reds.

• Lastings Milledge flew out as a pinch hitter, ending his eight-game hitting streak.

• Reds reliever Enerio Del Rosario made his major league debut tonight in the seventh inning. With a runner on second and one out, Del Rosario struck out Andrew McCutchen … but the ball got away from catcher Ryan Hanigan. McCutchen reached first base on the passed ball.

With runners now on the corners, Reds manager Dusty Baker immediately took the rookie out of the game. So, Del Rosario now has a most unusual career pitching line: 0.0 innings pitched, 1 strikeout.

• Ryan Doumit’s last three home runs all were hit in the ninth inning or later. His other homer this season came in the eighth inning on opening day.

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Sore back benches LaRoche

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CINCINNATI — Andy LaRoche is out of the starting lineup for the third straight game due to a stiff lower back. “I’m fine,” LaRoche said as he walked toward the trainer’ room.

Sunday, manager John Russell said LaRoche was given two days off as a precaution because of damp, chilly weather. That’s not the case today in Cincy, where it’s sunny with temps in the upper 80s.

“His back’s stiff again,” Russell said. “I talked to him and he said he’s starting to feel a little better. We’ll keep going day to day with it.”

Tonight, Delwyn Young will make his seventh career start at third base.

– Double-A Altoona allowed infielder Jim Negrych to return to his home in Buffalo, N.Y., to be with his ill grandfather. Negrych is on the temporarily inactive list, which means he must be out for at least three days.

– Bradenton right-hander Nate Adcock was named pitcher of the week for the Class A Florida State League. In two starts, Adcock went 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA (12 innings, one earned run, five hits, two walks, 12 strikeouts).

– Right-hander Diego Moreno, who went 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 16 relief outings for Bradenton, was promoted to Altoona. Moreno, 22, was signed in 2006 as a free agent out of his native Venezuela. Moreno ranked first among Florida State League relievers in batting average against (.121) and fewest baserunners per nine innings (4.78) and fifth in strikeouts/nine innings pitched (13.3) and fewest walks/nine innings (0.68).

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (19-25) – 1. Aki Iwamura 2b, 2. Delwyn Young 3b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Church lf, 6. Steve Pearce 1b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Brian Burres (2-1, 4.91) lhp

Reds (25-19) – 1. Orlando Cabrera ss, 2. Brandon Phillips 2b, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Scott Rolen 3b, 5. Jonny Gomes lf, 6. Jay Bruce rf, 7. Drew Stubbs cf, 8. Ryan Hanigan c, 9. Aaron Harang (2-5, 6.02) rhp

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Sunday lineups

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Here’s the Pirates lineup for Sunday:
Iwamura 4
Crosby 5
Mccutchen 8
Jones 9
Pearce 3
Milledge 7
Doumit 2
Cedeno 6
Duke 1

And the Braves…
McLouth 8
Infante 5
Prado 4
Glaus 3
Escobar 6
Cabrera 9
Ross 2
Clevlen 7
Medlen 1

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Iwamura back in lineup

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Manager John Russell watched the tail end of Aki Iwamura’s workout on the field at PNC Park, then chatted briefly with the second baseman. As Russell walked into the tunnel leading back to the clubhouse, he gave a quick nod — an affirmation that Iwamura is ready to return to the lineup.

Weather conditions will be a concern, as some rain is supposed to move in about 90 minutes before first pitch and things could be off-and-on drizzly all night. If Iwamura becomes too concerned about losing his footing, which would threaten his tender hamstring, he could make an early exit.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Braves (22-20) – 1. Martin Prado 2b, 2. Jason Heyward rf, 3. Chipper Jones 3b, 4. Brian McCann c, 5. Eric Hinske lf, 6. Yunel Escobar ss, 7. Melky Cabrera lf, 8. Nate McLouth cf, 9. Derek Lowe (5-4, 5.47) rhp

Pirates (18-24) – 1. Aki Iwamura 4b, 2. Bobby Crosby 3b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Church rf, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Charlie Morton (1-7, 9.68) rhp

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Short night for Ohlendorf

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Ross Ohlendorf lasted only 3 2/3 innings in tonight’s 7-0 loss against the Braves. The right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits, walked three and struck out three.

“He didn’t have much tonight,” manager John Russell said. “His fastball didn’t have much life, the sinker wasn’t moving much, his slider was more of a slurve than anything. Just one of those nights when he didn’t have much on the ball.”

Ohlendorf has gone 0-2 and pitched a total of 13 2/3 innings in three starts since coming off the disabled list 12 days ago. He said his lower back, which locked up in early April a few days after his first start, is fine.

“Physically, I feel great,” Ohlendorf said. “I’m just not as strong with my location as I need to be. I really need to go deeper into games.”

It was Ohlendorf’s shortest outing as a starter since Sept. 15, 2008, when he lasted three innings against Los Angeles. That was his third game with the Pirates, and at the time Ohlendorf was being stretched out after working as a reliever.

– The Pirates did not put up much of a fight against Tim Hudson (5-1), who won his fourth straight decision. The right-hander faced just three batters in four of his eight innings. Hudson allowed three hits, all singles. Only three runners made it as far as second base.

“He’s a great ground ball pitcher,” said Ryan Church, who went 0 for 4. “You’ve got to hunt the ball up because he’s got such great movement on his pitches. Some of those balls you think are up, they drop. It’s just that slight movement late that gets you. It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to tip your cap to him.”

– Bryan Morris’ debut for Double-A Altoona tonight went well. The righty worked 5 1/3 innings, allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven.

– Rookie of the year? It’s already looking that way for Braves outfielder Jason Heyward. About three weeks ago, Braves manager Bobby Cox told Jason Heyward he needed to be more aggressive at the plate. In 18 games since, Heyward is hitting .367 with five homers and 17 RBI. Tonight, he went 3 for 4 with three RBI. He would have had four hits, if not for a fine diving catch by Andrew McCutchen in the sixth inning.

– Cox, who will retire after this season, is 120-90 against the Pirates — a .571 winning percentage.

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LaRoche hitting leadoff

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Andy LaRoche will bat the leadoff tonight for the first time in his pro career. “The last time I hit leadoff was in high school,” LaRoche said. “I was about 16 years old.”

Manager John Russell was secretive about why he put LaRoche first. “He works the count,” Russell said. “There are other reasons, which I won’t divulge because I don’t want (the Braves) to know them.”

This season, LaRoche is averaging 3.72 pitches per plate appearance, slightly less than his career average (3.80).

LaRoche said being atop the batting order would cause him to change his approach. “I usually try to work the count, anyway,” he said. “The only at-bat that’s any different is the first one of the game.”

LaRoche laughed when I suggested his, ahem, blazing speed is the reason he’s in the 1 spot.

“I figured that’s obviously what it’s got to be,” LaRoche joked. “I’ll have a 10-pitch at-bat, draw a walk, steal second and steal third. I might even steal home. We’ll see. Depends on how tight they’re holding me at third base.”

– Second baseman Aki Iwamura stepped up his pregame workout, testing his sore hamstring by adding more lateral movement — moving to his right, pushing off, pivoting at second base. Russell said there’s a good chance Iwamura, who hasn’t started a game in a week, could be back in the lineup either Saturday or Sunday.

– Nate McLouth tonight will play in his first game at PNC Park while wearing a Braves uniform. I chatted with Nate before the game — check out the video on this website.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Braves (21-20) – 1. Martin Prado 2b, 2. Jason Heyward rf, 3. Chipper Jones 3b, 4. Brian McCann c, 5. Troy Glaus 1b, 6. Eric Hinske lf, 7. Yunel Escobar ss, 8. Nate McLouth cf, 9. Tim Hudson (4-1, 2.41) rhp

Pirates (18-23) – 1. Andy LaRoche 3b, 2. Bobby Crosby 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Ryan Church lf, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Jeff Clement 1b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (0-1, 3.00) rhp

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Taschner on DL

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The Pirates placed lefty reliever Jack Taschner on the 15-day disabled list with left hamstring tightness on Thursday and reinstated reliever Brendan Donnelly (oblique strain) from the 15-day DL. “Jack has had some soreness and tightness and we felt it best to give him more than ample time to get back to full health, while not leaving ourselves a pitcher short during this long stretch of games,” general manager Neal Huntington said. Taschner is 1-0 with a 6.23 ERA in 17 1/3 innings this year. He gave up a grand slam to Ryan Howard in Monday’s 12-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, his first outing in almost a week.

— The game is being delayed at the top of the second inning while they change home plate umpires. John Hirschbeck, who started the game behind home, was hit square in the facemask by a Chris Narveson warm-up pitch in the first inning. He was tended to by trainers and remained through the Pirates’ three-run inning but now he’s left the field at the top of the second. First-base umpire James Hoye has also gone off to put on the necessary equipment and there will be a three-man crew from here on out.

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Pearce’s defensive frustration tempered by results at the plate

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You had to feel for Steve Pearce a little bit tonight. In the nine games before last night Pearce has looked pretty solid defensively since being brought up from Indy. Yet first there was an error to start the fifth inning, then in the sixth a line drive from Jody Gerut hit the top of his glove and bounced into the grass behind him.

Pearce was visibly beyond angry with himself, frustration tempered only by the fact that he had three hits, including three doubles, on the night.

“That ball wasn’t hit that high, it was going right in my glove and I just undershot it,” Pearce said of the second misstep. “Oh man, it felt terrible. (Gregg) Zaun was on first and he was dead meat. It was a double-play easy and we’re out of the inning and momentum’s on our side. It’s just one of those things that can’t happen.”
— Lefty Javier Lopez got the win for the Pirates, his first since signing as a free agent in December 2009. He pitched just 2/3 innings but got two of the Pirates’ nine total strikeouts.

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Duke dominates Phils again

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PHILADELPHIA — Zach Duke is 2-3 with a 4.17 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story of how well he has pitched at times against them.

Tonight, Duke checked the Phils to one run through six innings, yielding six hits and two walks and netting five strikeouts.

Last July, Duke tossed a complete-game, five-hitter at Citizens Bank Park. Although Duke lost, 3-2, the outing impressed Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who two days later selected Duke for the National League All-Star squad.

On July 7, 2005, Duke threw seven shutout innings in a 2-1 victory at PNC Park. He allowed six hits and struck out eight.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty good games against the Phillies in my career,” Duke said. “For whatever reason, I feel comfortable against them. They do have a pretty good lineup, but if I’m on my game I match up pretty well against them.”

— The game’s defensive gem belonged to center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who gunned down Jayson Werth at the plate in the fifth.

Manuel gave McCutchen some kudos: “To me, I thought (Werth) took a wide turn to third. He kind of lost his timing. But at the same time, the guy made a pretty good throw and the ball beat him by pretty much.”

— Garrett Jones on his approach at the plate against righty Roy Halladay: “Every pitch of his is pretty good and he’s always around the plate. So, you pick a location on the plate, look at that spot, and if you get a pitch there don’t miss it. I was just trying to stay short, I choked up, and stayed up the middle against him.” Jones’ one-out single in the sixth scored Lastings Milledge with the winning run.

— You know things are going bad if light-hitting Gorkys Hernandez provides your offensive highlight in a game. Hernandez, who went into tonight’s game with a minuscule .272 OBP, had the only hit in Double-A Altoona’s 2-0 loss against Akron.

Justin Wilson (1-4) started for Altoona and allowed two runs on five hits in 5.2 innings. He has thrown 17.2 innings over his past three starts and given up a total of four runs — but the Curve did not score in any of those games.

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Six Latin Americans signed

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PHILADELPHIA — The Pirates today signed six Latin American free agents. Right-hander Brayan Almonte and lefty Angel Sanchez were assigned to the Dominican Summer League. Right-handers Oderman Rocha, Jose Luis Acosta, outfielder Willy Garcia and first baseman Jose Roman were assigned to the Venezuelan Summer League.

Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo said Garcia “has an athletic body (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) with a chance to develop five tools. He is a great addition to our system and has great game instincts with an aggressive approach.”

Almonte (6-7, 188): “Very athletic with solid arm action and has a good feel to pitching.”

Sanchez (6-7, 190): “Has a good feel to pitch and also has upside to his curveball.”

Rocha (6-3, 165): “We signed Oderman out of Columbia. He has an easy arm action with a good feel to pitch.”

Acosta (6-2, 185): “An athletic body with solid arm action. We are excited about Jose because he has good upside.”

Roman (6-1, 200): “Good instincts for the game with some projectable power.”

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