“Heated discussion” in the dugout

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Tempers flared in the Pirates dugout Thursday between outfielder Lastings Milledge and bench coach Gary Varsho. Players had to step in between the two as they shouted at each other in the top of the sixth inning.

“A heated discussion, that’s all,” manager John Russell said. “It happens. Guys are trying hard. Lastings and Gary have a good relationship and they’ll be back out there, working together, tomorrow.”

As he went out for the bottom of the inning, Milledge also had an animated chat on the field with Crosby, who said little as he fielded grounders.

Milledge came up short on two plays in the outfield. In the fourth inning, he futilely chased Josh Hamilton’s double, which caromed off the wall in left-center. Milledge got to the wall about five feet from where the ball hit.

In the seventh, he tried to make a diving catch of Michael Young’s blooper near the right field line. The ball dropped a bit behind Milledge, landing fair by inches, and went for an RBI triple. Young later scored the tying run.

After the game, Milledge spent a good deal of time reviewing video of the game, then quickly showed and caught the team bus for the flight to Oakland.

»»» The Pirates came into the game having dropped two in a row. It was up to Jeff Karstens to halt the skid before it began to spin out of control.

Normally, that stopper role would fall to Zach Duke or Paul Maholm. But Duke is on the disabled list with a sore elbow and Maholm was stomped Wednesday by the Rangers.

How badly was Maholm battered? He became the first pitcher in Pirates history to allow 11 baserunners while getting three or fewer outs. The lefty gave up seven hits and walked four in one-plus inning.

»»» Keep an eye out for Charlie Morton. The right-hander was impressive tonight in Triple-A Indy’s 9-1 rout of Durham, and might be making a case for a return to Pittsburgh.

Morton tossed a complete game and allowed one run on two hits. He struck out four and walked one. “I felt pretty good,” Morton said. “That’s a good-hitting team and I was just trying to throw strikes. It went well.”

Before the game, GM Neal Huntington said Morton could force his way back into consideration for at least a spot start with the Pirates if he ramped up his performance. Morton, whose shoulder fatigue no longer is a factor, is nearing the end of his rehab stint with Indy.

Morton is not a lock to rejoin the Pirates once he’s ready to come off the DL. He has minor league options remaining, and management could decide that’s the best place for him to regain his confidence.

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Daniel McCutchen will start Saturday

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ARLINGTON, Texas — The Pirates equipment crew was spotted packing a Daniel McCutchen — it was No. 34, not Andrew’s No. 22 — jersey for the trip to Oakland, a sure indication the right-hander will make a spot start Saturday against the Athletics.

McCutchen probably also will make a second spot start July 1 in place of injured Zach Duke. However, that could change … IF Charlie Morton turns in a very strong performance tonight for Triple-A Indianapolis, and IF McCutchen struggles Saturday. In that case, Morton likely would start for the Pirates on July 1 against the Phillies.

Those are two very big ifs, though.

The Pirates still have time to allow Morton to continue his 30-day rehab assignment with Indy. “We want to make sure we do whatever we have to do to get him back on track,” GM Neal Huntington said.

Morton has looked good, albeit not great, so far for Indy. The shoulder fatigue that landed Morton on the DL no longer is an issue. The right-hander has worked with a sports psychologist, trying to clear the mental hurdles which often cause him to fall apart on the mound.

»»» Steve Pearce is nearing the end of his 20-day rehab stint with Indy, and the Pirates soon will be forced to make a tough decision on whether or not to recall him to the majors. Pearce’s ankle has healed, and he is back to full speed at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field.

The arrivals of Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez effectively took away options for Pearce to get playing time. “Keeping Steve on the bench at the major league level might not be in his best interests or in ours,” Huntington said. “It might be better for him to play every day (at Indy).”

»»» If the Pirates bring up either Pearce or Morton, the move would carry some risk. If a player is called up, then is quickly sent back down, he cannot return to the majors for 10 days.

The Pirates considered bringing up Pearce to act as a DH in Texas and Oakland. They changed course last night, when Paul Maholm’s one-inning outing overtaxed the bullpen and made it necessary to call up relievers Justin Thomas and Steven Jackson.

»»» Friday, Aki Iwamura will report to Indy, where he will split time with Jim Negrych at second base and third base. The Pirates want to be careful not to rob playing time from Negrych, a developing prospect, but also want to boost Iwamura’s trade value. Negrych projects as a super-utility type of player in the majors, so the Pirates want to use him in multiple roles at Indy.

»»» The Pirates are willing to listen to trade offers for righty Dana Eveland, who this morning was designated for assignment. If nothing pans out and Eveland clears waivers, he will be sent to Indy.

»»» Catcher Tony Sanchez is expected to miss six to eight weeks after having surgery this afternoon to repair his fractured jaw.ch

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Eveland DFA; Jackson, Thomas called up

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ARLINGTON, Texas — This morning, reliever Dana Eveland was designated for assignment. By doing so, the Pirates raised the white flag on the trade which netted Eveland (who was awful in three outings) from the Bue Jays in exchange for hard-throwing reliever Ronald Uviedo.

Right-hander Steven Jackson was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Lefty Justin Thomas was selected from Indy. One of them will be sent back to Indy after Friday’s game, so the Pirates can bring up a spot starter for Saturday’s game against the A’s.

Jackson, 28, began the season with Indianapolis, then joined the Pirates May 28. He made one relief appearance with Pittsburgh and was optioned back to Triple-A on June 2.  In 22 games with Indy Jackson went 1-0 with a 2.90 ERA. He did not allow a run in his last 10 Triple-A appearances (11 2/3 innings).

Thomas, 26, went 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA in 24 relief appearances for Indy. He ranks third among International League relief pitchers with a .157 batting average against. Since the start of May, Thomas has been charged with just two earned runs in 19 appearances.

Thomas made his major league debut with Seattle in 2008 and went 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in eight relief appearances.  He spent 2009 with Triple-A Tacoma and was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh on Oct. 29.

• The Rangers radio broadcasters were all over Ryan Doumit last night for getting a sluggish jump on a foul pop-up. The ball landed on the warning track and bounced into the lap of Nolan Ryan’s wife, who was seated in the first row near the Rangers’ dugout. Doumit and first baseman Garrett Jones both gave chase, but the announcers were critical of Doumit for what they said was a lazy approach. Doumit is in the starting lineup tonight at catcher.

• What a tough break — literally — for catcher Tony Sanchez, who was doing so well with High-A Bradenton. He had surgery today to repair his fractured jaw and should be out for quite a while.

Sanchez was injured Tuesday when he was struck in the face by a pitch. He also was hit in the head by a pitch June 3 and sat out five games (Bradenton went 1-4 in that stretch with him on the bench).

His defensive performance has been a teeny bit disappointing, but GM Neal Huntington said that was mostly due to a mild shoulder injury early in the season and some ineffective jobs by pitchers of holding runners on base.

Sanchez was performing well above expectations offensively, and earned a spot on Team USA for the All-Star Futures Game. It seemed just a matter of weeks before Sanchez would be promoted to Double-A Altoona, as he stayed on a fast track toward the majors.

Russell, a former catcher in the majors, said he had an inkling Sanchez would excel after seeing the 2009 first-round pick up close during spring training.

“He was everything you’d like to see,” Russell said. “Good setup. Energy. A lot of energy behind the plate. Received well, threw well. Attentive. He loves the position. He had everything I was looking forward to seeing. He’s going to be a very good catcher. I hope this (injury) doesn’t set him back too far.”

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (25-46) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Ryan Church dh, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Lastings Milledge rf, 9. Bobby Crosby ss. Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.72) rhp

Rangers (43-28) — TBA.  Scott Feldman (5-6, 5.16) rhp

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Rangers’ offense tough to stop

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Even without Josh Hamilton, the hottest hitter in the American League, in their lineup tonight, the AL West-leading Rangers crushed the Pirates, 13-3. It was the Rangers’ 10th straight victory, the second-longest string in their history.

“It’s a tough lineup to get through,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “They swing the bats well, especially here (at Rangers Ballpark). They take advantage of mistakes.”

Dana Eveland, who previously pitched for the A’s and Blue Jays, has been tormented by the Rangers before.

“A lot,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch ahead and keep a good mix — and even then, they’re going to get their hits. You’ve just got to limit the damage. I’ve never had great success against them. I’ve had outings where I’d be going good for four innings or so, but the second or third time through the lineup, they make adjustments and that’s when they get you.”

Eveland had not pitched in a game since June 11. He tried to stay sharp by throwing side sessions every three or four days, but the adrenaline rush is not the same as in a game.

“It’s definitely not easy, but it’s part of the job sometimes,” said Eveland, who allowed six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. “I was happy with the way I threw the ball, until the last six or so hitters I faced. For having that much time off, though I didn’t locate great, the ball was moving. When I got tired, everything got flat. I wasn’t tricking anybody after that.”

»»» Matt Curry, the Pirates’ 16th-round draft pick this year, hit a grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning to boost TCU to a 9-7 lead against Florida State in the College World Series. Curry’s slam elicited cheers from TCU alums in the press box at Rangers Ballpark.

»»» Exactly one week after the Pirates made six errors in a game against the Tigers, short-season Class A State College tonight amassed a team-record seven blunders in a 12-3 loss against Batavia. State College gave up seven unearned runs.

Zach Von Rosenberg (0-2) started for the first time at Medlar Field in Happy Valley and took the loss. He gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits in four innings.

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Eveland not getting any work

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Dana Eveland has not pitched in a game since June 11, when he tossed two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. He made a start June 7 and went five innings against the Cubs.

Since then …

“You try to keep him as fresh as you can by throwing sides,” manager John Russell said. “He’ll throw every third or fourth day. There are times when we get him up (in the bullpen) and that gives him more work. You’d like to try to get guys in games, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to (with Eveland).”

Russell said the reason Eveland is wasting away on the bullpen bench isn’t because the Pirates lack faith in the right-hander, who has a 3.86 ERA and has allowed eight hits in seven innings. Rather, it’s just that Russell feels more comfortable in tight games — and the Pirates have played in plenty lately — going with proven, veteran relievers such as Javier Lopez, Brendan Donnelly, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek and D.J. Carrasco in middle- and late-inning situations.

“That’s their roles,” Russell said. “When our starter’s giving us six (innings) that gets us to those roles.”

Eveland is a candidate to make a spot start Saturday in place of Zach Duke, who today went on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow. It’s possible the Pirates could give Eveland the start and call up a long reliever from Triple-A in case Eveland can’t go too deep into the game.

A more likely scenario is Eveland remains in the pen and either Daniel McCutchen, Charlie Morton or Brian Burres is called up to start Saturday. The Pirates are expected to announce their decision tomorrow.

»»» Tonight, Bobby Crosby will start at shortstop for the fourth game in a row and the sixth time in the past seven games. But, Russell did not want to anoint Crosby the new starter over incumbent Ronny Cedeno.

“Bobby’s doing a good job,” Russell said. “He’s a good leader, he’s really swinging the bat well. But, Ronny’s still a very good player, so we don’t want to slight him, either. From what Bobby’s done the past few games, it’s tough not to put him in there. Ronny’s going to get to play. But I’m trying to ride the hot hand.”

Over the past two games, Crosby is 6 for 7 with two RBI. He’s batting .286 in June after hitting .241 in April and .245 in May.

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Baserunning blunders

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ARLINGTON, Texas — The Pirates made two baserunning gaffes in last night’s 6-3 loss against the Rangers. One of them proved costly.

In the fourth inning, Pedro Alvarez hesitated after rounding second base before going to third on Ryan Doumit’s single to center field. Alvarez slid in safely — just barely — and scored on a grounder when first baseman Justin Smoak threw wildly to the plate.

In the sixth inning, the Rangers led 4-2. Doumit was at first base with one out when Lastings Milledge doubled into the left field corner. Third base coach Tony Beasley waved Doumit home, and he was thrown out easily at the plate. The next batter, Bobby Crosby, doubled home Milledge — but it could have been a two-run, game-tying double if Doumit had been stopped at third base.

“We got a little aggressive,” manager John Russell said.

• The Pirates had seven hits through four innings against righty Tommy Hunter, yet produced just two runs. Zero clutch hitting.

Pedro Alvarez struck out with runners at the corners and two outs in the first. The Pirates got two-out singles in the second and third, and stranded both runners.

In the fourth, the Pirates had a run in and runners on first and second with nobody out. But Crosby struck out, and Jose Tabata and Neil Walker flew out.

• Righty Jimmy Barthmaier was released from Double-A Altoona in order to clear a roster spot for right-hander Diego Moreno, who came off the DL. Moreno missed 22 games due to a right rotator cuff strain.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (25-45) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Ryan Church rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Delwyn Young dh, 9. Bobby Crosby ss. Paul Maholm (4-5, 3.77) lhp

Rangers (42-28) — 1. Elvis Andrus ss, 2. Michael Young 3b, 3. Ian Kinsler 2b, 4. Vladimir Guerrero dh, 5. David Murphy lf, 6. Nelson Cruz rf, 7. Justin Smoak 1b, 8. Matt Treanor c, 9. Julio Borbon cf. Dustin Nippert (2-3, 5.01) rhp

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Sanchez update: Broken jaw?

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Here’s another update on catcher prospect Tony Sanchez, who earlier today was hit in the face by a pitch while playing for High-A Bradenton:

According to GM Neal Huntington, a CT scan indicated there are two fractures in the lower portion of Sanchez’s jaw. Late tonight, Sanchez was transferred from Bradenton, Fla., to a hospital in Tampa, where it is hoped a specialist will be able to evaluate him. So far, there is no further update on his status.

»»» The Pirates made two baserunning gaffes in tonight’s 6-3 loss against the Rangers. One of them proved costly.

In the fourth inning, Pedro Alvarez hesitated after rounding second base before going to third on Ryan Doumit’s single to center field. Alvarez slid in safely — just barely — and scored on a grounder when first baseman Justin Smoak threw wildly to the plate.

In the sixth inning, the Rangers led 4-2. Doumit was at first base with one out when Lastings Milledge doubled into the left field corner. Third base coach Tony Beasley waved Doumit home, and he was thrown out easily at the plate. The next batter, Bobby Crosby, doubled home Milledge — but it could have been a two-run, game-tying double if Doumit had been stopped at third base.

“We got a little aggressive,” manager John Russell said.

• The Pirates had seven hits through four innings against righty Tommy Hunter, yet produced just two runs. Zero clutch hitting.

Pedro Alvarez struck out with runners at the corners and two outs in the first. The Pirates got two-out singles in the second and third, and stranded both runners.

In the fourth, the Pirates had a run in and runners on first and second with nobody out. But Crosby struck out, and Jose Tabata and Neil Walker flew out.

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Zach Duke, Tony Sanchez ailing

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Left-hander Zach Duke (elbow pain) is “coming along a little slower than anticipated,” according to manager John Russell, and might not throw his scheduled side Wednesday.

If Duke cannot make his bullpen session, he likely be end up on the disabled list. A similar injury shelved Duke for 2 1/2 months in 2007.

Here’s the good news: GM Neal Huntington said that “all indications are there’s just some muscle fatigue” and no structural damage.

If Duke is out, candidates to make a spot start Saturday would be Daniel McCutchen, Charlie Morton, Dana Eveland and Brian Burres. McCutchen would line up perfectly to pitch Saturday.

• Earlier today, Class A Bradenton catcher Tony Sanchez was hit in the face by a pitch — the second time in two weeks he’s been plunked in the head. A CT scan showed two small, possible fractures. The scans will be reviewed by a specialist. Sanchez will be out at least a couple of days and will be monitored for concussion symptoms.

• Bradenton shortstop Brock Holt will have surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, and is out for the season. During the surgery, doctors will determine the extent of damage to Holt’s MCL.

• Relievers Neal Cotts (right hip surgery) and Tyler Yates (elbow surgery) recently had setbacks during their rehabs and are out for the rest of the season. Jose Ascanio (shoulder) is making a slower-than-expected return, and might begin a rehab assignment in late-July.

• Jeremy Farrell (left leg bruise) is on the DL at Bradenton.

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Sanchez, Hernandez in Futures Game

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Catcher Tony Sanchez and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez were chosen to play in the All-Star Futures Game at 6 p.m. July 11 in Anaheim, Calif. Sanchez will play for Team USA, Hernandez will play for the World.

Sanchez is hitting .314 with four homers and 35 RBI for High-A Bradenton. He’s expected to finish the season at Double-A Altoona. Hernandez is hitting .250 with two homers, 19 RBI and 12 stolen bases for Altoona.

»»» Late last night, the Pirates announced they’ve signed two more draft picks, giving them a total of 10. Right-hander Bryce Weidman (14th round) and second baseman Adalberto Santos (22nd) came to terms.

»»» Outfielder Cole White was added to the short-season Class A State College roster. White, a West Point graduate, left the Spikes in July 2008 to report for active duty in the Army. He was one of five players affected when the Army revised its interpretation of the Defense Department’s Alternative Service Option, which requires cadets pursuing a pro sports career to complete two years of active duty.

»»» The Pirates acquired minor league infielder Adam Davis from the Indians for cash. Davis, 25, was assigned to High-A Bradenton. He started two games at third base and went 2 for 5 with three walks, an RBI and one stolen base.

It’s been a wild month for Davis, a former third-round pick. He’s not been “home” to his apartment in Kinston, S.C., since June 3. While on the road with Kinston, he was promoted to Double-A Akron, which at the time was playing in Harrisburg. After a home series in Akron, Davis was sent back to Kinston, which then played in Lynchburg, Va., and Salem, Va. From there, he was traded and sent to Bradenton. According to Bradenton’s Dan Wolfert, Davis endured an odyssey of 2,203 miles over 16 days.

»»» Bradenton put right-hander Hunter Strickland on the seven-day DL (retroactive to June 17) with a sore elbow. “Strickland has some tightness in his forearm/elbow,” farm director Kyle Stark said. “We will know more when we get an evaluation in the coming days.” To fill in, righty Matt McSwain was sent to Bradenton from Double-A Altoona. Jeremy Farrell (left leg injury) also is on the DL at Bradenton.

»»» According Bradenton’s game notes, shortstop Brock Holt is on the DL due to a torn MCL. This conflicts with what GM Neal Huntington said Sunday — “(No tear) that I’m aware of,” Huntington said — when he indicated Holt will not need surgery. Huntington will be here in Arlington tonight, and is expected to issue another statement on Holt’s status. I am not expecting it to be good news.

»»» It’s hard to believe that Andrew McCutchen isn’t among the top 15 outfielders in voting for the All-Star Game. I’ve always supported fan balloting — it’s their game, so they can vote in whomever they want to see. But putting McCutchen behind has-beens Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, not to mention Ryan Ludwick and Jonny Gomes, is ridiculous.

The final NL voting update will be released next Tuesday. Rosters will be revealed July 4.

»»» During this three-game interleague series, the Pirates must find a way to shut down Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. He is riding a 16-game hitting streak, the longest active run in the majors, and in June is batting .477 with seven homers and 25 RBI. As Richard Durrett pointed out on espn.com, only Todd Helton (.476, 7, 32 in July 2000) and Richard Hidalgo (.476, 11, 31 in September 2000) have put up similar numbers for a full month since 1972.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (25-44) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Ryan Church dh, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Lastings Milledge rf, 9. Bobby Crosby ss. Ross Ohlendorf (0-5, 5.22) rhp

Rangers (41-28) – 1. Elvis Andrus ss, 2. Michael Young 3b, 3. Ian Kinsler 2b, 4. Vladimir Guerrero dh, 5. Josh Hamilton lf, 6. Cruz rf, 7. Justin Smoak 1b, 8. Matt Treanor c, 9. Julio Borbon cf. Tommy Hunter (2-0, 2.08) rhp

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Iwamura going, going …

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GM Neal Nuntington said “a handful of clubs have expressed some level of interest” in trading for Aki Iwamura, though most teams have turned down the Pirates’ overtures. “We’ll put some closure to it, one way or another, hopefully early this week,” Huntington said.

• Saturday, Charlie Morton made his third rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis and allowed three runs on his hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out five. “He had very good velocity, up to 96 mph, the four-seamer was explosive in the zone, the two-seamer had a ton of life” Huntington said. The brain trust will huddle this week to decide whether to activate Morton (shoulder fatigue) from the disabled list and then whether to send him to Pittsburgh or Indy. “We want to make the right move for us and for Charlie,” Huntington said. “Not ready to make an announcement about it either way, at this point.”

• In two rehab games Saturday and Sunday with Indy, Steve Pearce (sprained ankle) went a combined 5 for 7 with four runs scored, one RBI, a double, three walks and one stolen base. Pearce started both games in right field.

• Class A Bradenton catcher Tony Sanchez last week was hit in the head by a pitch and as a precaution was held out of the Florida State League all-star game. Sanchez is expected to be back in action this week.

• Hutnington said Bradenton shortstop Brock Holt (knee) will not require surgery. “He took a pretty good shot (June 5 in a collision),” Huntington said. “But all indications are he just needs time to get the bruising out of there and the strength back in.” Huntington said Holt’s MCL is not torn.

• Infielder Jeremy Farrell did not play in the FSL all-star game due to a shin injury and heat exhaustion.

• Garrett Jones on Sunday extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games, the longest active streak in the NL. During his binge, Jones has gone 17 for 41 (.415) with nine RBI.

• Evan Meek’s 0.68 ERA is the lowest by a Pirates reliever at this point of the season since Bill Landrum had a 0.50 ERA on Aug. 3, 1989.

• The Pirates are 4-0 at home this season when the crowd is 30,000-plus. Last year, they went 7-2 at PNC Park with more than 30,000 fans showed up.

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