Ludwick haunts Pirates

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

CHICAGO — File this one under “Bad Timing” … A year ago at the deadline, the Pirates acquired OF Ryan Ludwick in hopes of jump-starting their offense. It didn’t work. Ludwick played in 38 games and batted .232 with two homers and 11 RBI. Over the winter, he signed with the Reds. Ludwick has played well this season, but has really come back to haunt the Pirates over the past couple of weeks. During the Reds’ 10-game winning streak — with MVP candidate Joey Votto on the DL — Ludwick is hitting .355 with a 1.136 OPS, three homers, seven RBI and seven runs scoerd.

Game 102: Pirates @ Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (58-43): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Alex Presley rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Erik Bedard lhp (5-11, 4.32)

Cubs (42-58): 1. Reed Johnson cf, 2. Starlin Castro ss, 3. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 4. Alfonso Soriano lf, 5. Jeff Baker rf, 6. Geovany Soto c, 7. Darwin Barney 2b, 8. Joe Mather 3b, 9. Justin Germano (0-1, 1.04)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Catchers provide power

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

HOUSTON — Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry have combined for 17 home runs. Among NL clubs, only the Braves (22) and Rockies (21) have gotten more homers from their catchers. The last right-handed catcher to hit 10 homers in a season for the Pirates was Jason Kendall, who hit 14 in 2000.

»»» Today will be Andrew McCutchen’s first non-injury related day off. McCutchen also didn’t get any break around the All-Star Game. “It’s time for him to get a blow,” manager Clint Hurdle said, adding that he plans to give a few other regulars some down time over the next week or so.

»»» The Pirates have won nine games in a row against the Astros. Since being swept by Houston in a three-game series last August at Minute Maid Park, the Pirates are 11-2 against the Astros.

»»» The Pirates on Monday open a three-game set against the Cubs in Chicago. It’s the latest in a season the Pirates have played their first game at Wrigley Field in the modern era (since 1900).

Game 101: Pirates @ Astros, 2:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (58-42): 1. Starling Marte cf, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Casye McGehee 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Jordy Mercer ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (10-4, 3.15)

Astros (34-68): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Marwin Gonzalez ss, 3. Chris Johnson 3b, 4. Scott Moore 1b, 5. J.D. Martinez lf, 6. Brian Bogusevic rf, 7. Chris Snyder c, 8. Jordan Schafer cf, 9. Lucas Harrell rhp (7-7, 4.07)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Rodriguez set for Pirates debut

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

HOUSTON — There’s one obvious upside to LHP Wandy Rodriguez making his Pirates debut tonight against his former team, the Astros, at Minute Maid Park. “There shouldn’t be any mound issues,” manager Clint Hurdle joked. Hurdle is not worried about Rodriguez feeling conflicted about facing his old club. “He’s going to pitch against these guys sooner or later, with as many games as we’ve got (against) them down the stretch,” Hurdle said. “So, why not knock it down now and move on?”

Rod Barajas is catching tonight, in part because Rodriguez is most comfortable speaking Spanish and Hurdle doesn’t want any communication breakdowns right out of the chute. But expect Michael McKenry to get plenty of time behind the plate with the lefty, too, as the season goes on. Hurdle is usually not inclined to assign a “personal catcher” to his pitchers. The catchers will try to learn as much as they can about the new guy as quickly as possible. It’s not always a hard chore. “Sometimes, you see kindred spirits,” Hurdle said. “Last year, with all the transition we had moving catchers in and out, there some nights it just clicked and other nights when it was more complicated.”

»»» The Pirates are 14-2 on Saturdays this season — 9-0 at home and 5-2 on the road.

»»» The Pirates have posted winning records in three straight months. It’s the first time they’ve done that since 1991, when they were above .500 in every month of the season.

Game 100: Pirates @ Astros, 7:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (57-42): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Alex Presley rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Wandy Rodriguez lhp (7-9, 3.79)

Astros (34-67): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Matt Downs 1b, 3. Chris Johnson 3b, 4. J.D. Martinez lf, 5. Justin Maxwell cf, 6. Ben Francisco rf, 7. Brian Bixler ss, 8. Carlos Corporan c, 9. Armando Galarraga (season debut)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

More national pub for McCutchen

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

HOUSTON — At 6 p.m. today, MLB Network will feature Andrew McCutchen on MLB Tonight. The show includes interviews with McCutchen and his teammates and coaches, including this quote from Casey McGehee: “I was fortunate enough to play with Ryan Braun in his MVP year last season, and I didn’t think it was going to get much better. But this is a whole other level what (McCutchen) is doing.” By the way, MLB Net will carry the Pirates-Reds game Saturday, but the game will be blacked out in Pittsburgh. I believe the game will be available via Root Sports.

»»» Garrett Jones has 10 RBI in his past eight games. His past two homers both came against lefty pitchers.

»»» Last night, A.J. Burnett beat the Astros for the first time since April 25, 2002, when he was pitching for the Marlins.

»»» The Pirates have homered in 16 straight road games, going deep 35 times in that span. They’re tied with the A’s (also active) for the longest such streak in the majors.

»»» The Astros will call up RHP Armando Galarraga to start Saturday against the Pirates. On June 2, 2010, Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game with the Tigers was spoiled on what should have been the final out by a blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce. Galarraga is 3-2 with a 3.97 ERA in 10 minor league starts this season.

Game 99: Pirates @ Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (56-42): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Alex Presley rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (3-2, 3.52)

Astros (34-66): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Marwin Gonzalez ss, 3. Chris Johnson 3b, 4. Scott Moore 1b, 5. J.D. Martinez lf, 6. Justin Maxwell cf, 7. Ben Francisco rf, 8. Chris Snyder c, 9. Jordan Lyles rhp (2-7, 5.50)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Happy Marte Day!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

HOUSTON — Happy Marte Day. Check back a little later for some blah-blah-blah from the clubhouse about the long-awaited outfielder’s debut.

»»» According to the Elias wonks, Kevin Correia is the first Pirate to win at least five straight starts after having a five-game losing streak in the same season since 1965, when Vern Law went 8-0 immediately after losing his first five starts of the year. This season, Correia dropped five in a row from April 29 to May 20; he won his fifth straight Wednesday, a 3-2 victory against the Cubs.

Game 98: Pirates @ Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET

Astros (34-65): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Marwin Gonzalez ss, 3. Justin Maxwell cf, 4. Scott Moore 1b, 5. J.D. Martinez lf, 6. Chris Johnson 3b, 7. Brian Bogusevic rf, 8. Carlos Corporan c, 9. Dallas Keuchel lhp (1-2, 4.03)

Pirates (55-42): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Casey McGehee 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rob Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. A.J. Burnett rhp (11-3, 3.59)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hurdle: Paul who?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Manager Clint Hurdle this afternoon poured some cold water on the possibility of the Pirates trading to reacquire LHP Paul Maholm, who parted ways with the club last winter as a free agent. “I’m not sure how much substance there is to (those trade rumors). I haven’t had any conversations with Neal (Huntington) about Paul. We all were very appreciative of Paul’s body of work here. We felt the point of time where we were and where he was … I don’t think we saw the fit the same way, so you move on. We’re always going to be open-minded to add value, to add help, something off the mound, off the bench, a position player. Neal works extremely hard and he’s very creative. So, anything that comes up doesn’t surprise me, but I usually get with him to find out how much substance there is to it.”

Game 96: Cubs @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Cubs (39-56): 1. David DeJesus cf, 2. Starlin Castro ss, 3. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 4. Alfonso Soriano lf, 5. Bryan LaHair rf, 6. Geovany Soto c, 7. Darwin Barney 2b, 8. Luis Valbuena 3b, 9. Paul Maholm lhp (8-6, 4.09)

Pirates (54-41): 1. Drew Sutton lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Casey McGehee 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rob Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (10-3, 2.93)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A special season unfolding?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Pirates went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position last night, yet beat the Marlins by a comfortable four-run margin. It can be a funny game, huh? “That’s why you go play the game,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s why paper, statistics, analysis … it all has it’s place, but you’ve still got to go out and play. There are so many things that happen in this game that we would not author. There are so many seasons that have transpired that people would not have written up that way before the season started. That’s one of the great things about sport.”

The four-run, zero-hit inning was among a handful of memorable and/or quirky moments for the Pirates this summer. Remember Matt Hague’s walkoff HBP? The deadly doubles by Michael McKenry and Clint Barmes off Aroldis Chapman? Josh Harrison breaking up Justin Verlander’s no-hit bid? Series wins in Milwaukee and Cincinnati in early June? “It very well can turn out to be something very special,” Hurdle said. “Any season that turns out to be magical, when it’s defined at the end, there are lightning bolts all through the season.”

Hurdle has kept a personal journal of every season in which he’s played, coached or managed. When he looks back at the standout moments, he’s noticed that they didn’t always happen in victories. “That’s one of the things we miss a lot,” Hurdle said. “We’re always looking for the win. There’s galvanizing moments in the dugout, it can be in a conversation in the clubhouse, it can be in a mound meeting or a bullpen session.

“This is a good time for Pirates baseball,” Hurdle continued. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good time. And I can only identify with it (a tiny bit). But you hear it at the end of every season in every sport. When the people are jumping around, you hear, ‘It took all of us.’ As you look around at those things that have happened this year, the people who have come into play, it does take everybody. It takes circumstances that are uncommon from time to time.”

»»» Brad Lincoln tossed the final 1 1/3 innings and notched his first professional save. “I wasn’t even aware it was a save situation,” Lincoln said. “I just wanted to get outs and end it.” Lincoln is among six Pirates who’ve claimed at least one save this season, proving the depth of the bullpen.

Game 94: Marlins @ Pirates, 1:35 p.m. ET

Marlins (44-50): 1. Jose Reyes ss, 2. Emilio Bonifacio cf, 3. Carlos Lee 1b, 4. Logan Morrison lf, 5. Justin Ruggiano rf, 6. Greg Dobbs 3b, 7. Omar Infante 2b, 8. Brett Hayes c, 9. Anibal Sanchez rhp (5-6, 3.95)

Pirates (53-40): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Casey McGehee 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Jordy Mercer ss, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (2-2, 4.15)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Meek replaces Cruz

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Reliever Evan Meek today was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to replace Juan Cruz, who’s on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Cruz has an opponents’ batting average of .287 and has allowed nearly half (17 of 37) of the first batters he’s faced to reach base. Cruz said his shoulder has been cranky since around the third week of June.

Meek went 3-2 with one save and a 2.27 ERA in 27 outings with Indy. “It feels great to be here and to be part of it again,” Meek said. “It’s good to be healthy again. I feel like I’m back to where I was in 2010.” Manager Clint Hurdle said Meek doesn’t have a specific role in the pen, other than to to help get the ball to Jason Grilli in the eighth and Joel Hanrahan in the ninth. Hudle also indicated Meek could make some two-inning outings.

»»» The Pirates are 8-2 in sellouts at PNC Park this season. Tonight will be sellout No. 11, six shy of last yea’s total.

»»» Baseball Prospectus analyst Kevin Goldstein is just as puzzled as we are about why OF Starling Marte is still an Indy Indian. Thursday, Go;ldstein wrote “one has to wonder if one of the reasons the Pirateas have kept him at Triple-A is to keep him putting up numbers, as opposed to risking having his aggressive approach exposed by big league pitching.” Goldstein surmised Marte has more value as a prospect to the other 29 clubs because “as a centerfielder, Marte is a star … in a corner outfield spot, Marte might look more like Juan Encarnacion. Position is everything, and Marte just doesn’t have an ideal fit” with the Pirates.

Game 93: Marlins @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Marlins (44-49): 1. Jose Reyes ss, 2. Emilio Bonifacio cf, 3. Carlos Lee 1b, 4. Logan Morrison lf, 5. Justin Ruggiano rf, 6. Greg Dobbs 3b, 7. Omar Infante 2b, 8. John Buck c, 9. Carlos Zambrano rhp (5-7, 4.22)

Pirates (52-40): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Casey McGehee 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. A.J. Burnett rhp (10-3, 3.78)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

McCutchen closes in on DiMaggio (Not that one. The other one.)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

DENVER — Andrew McCutchen last night launched his 73rd career homer, which is one shy of tying Vince DiMaggio for third among Pirates center fielders. The top two are Andy Van Slyke (112 homers) and Al Oliver (75).

»»» Give it up for reliever Jared Hughes. Last night, the righty got just one out, but it was a biggie — he retired Michael Cuddyer to fly out with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning. Hughes has allowed just one of his 17 inherited runners to score this season. In his brief big league career, Hughes has stranded 22 of 26 runners.

»»» SS Clint Barmes has turned three double plays over the past two games and has made just one error in his past 26 games.

»»» RHP James McDonald has won seven of his past eight decisions, including the past four in a row. Since May 17, his seven wins are tied for fifth-most in the majors.

Game 91: Pirates @ Rockies, 3:10 p.m. ET

Pirates (50-40): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Casey McGehee 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (9-3, 2.59)

Rockies (35-55): TBA. Jeremy Guthrie rhp (3-9, 6.14)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Presley returns from DL

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

DENVER — Alex Presley today was reinstated from the seven-day concussion disabled list. Matt Hague was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Presley played two games during a rehab assignment with Indy. He was injured while trying to make a diving catch, and said that will not alter his style of play in the outfield. “I’m not out there to hold anything back,” Presley said. “If I’m playing hard and something happens, that’s just the way it is.”

»»» For the second week in a row, Andrew McCutchen was named NL player of the week. He’s the first Pirate to win it back-to-back since Jason Bay in 2006. McCutchen goes into today’s game leading the NL in batting average (.371), total bases (209), slugging percentage (.651), OPS (1.074), batting average with RISP (.400) and batting average against lefties (.462). He’s second in the league in homers (21), RBI (64) and is third in OBP (.423).

»»» Tonight, the Pirates will try to become the fifth team in the majors to reach 50 wins this season.

»»» Rod Barajas has a career average of .338 (51 for 151) against the Rox. He’s collected eight doubles, seven homers and 28 RBI in 52 games.

Game 89: Pirates @ Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET

Pirates (49-39): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Josh Harrison rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4.Casey McGehee 1b, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (2-2, 3.94)

Rockies (34-54): 1. Dexter Fowler cf, 2. Marco Scutaro 2b, 3. Jordan Pacheco 3b, 4. Carlos Gonzalez lf, 5. Michael Cuddyer 1b, 6. Tyler Colvin rf, 7. Wilin Rosario c, 8. Josh Rutledge ss, 9. Jeff Francis lhp (2-2, 5.19)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail