Tough loss for Watson

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MILWAUKEE — Lefty Tony Watson endured a 35-pitch outing last night and served up Cody Ransom’s game-winning grand slam in the eighth. It was Watson’s first outing since July 1, although he still leads the bullpen with 37 appearances this season. Righty batters, such as Ransom, are hittnig .204 against Watston. “He arguably has been one of our best guys to get right-handers out. He just made a bad pitch,” manager Clint Hurdle said. It was Watson’s first loss since July 31, 2011, and snapped a string of six victories. It also was only the fourth time in his past nine outings that Watson has worked a full inning.

»»» After throwing so many pitches last night, Watson might not be available tonight. Hurdle said it’s a game-time decision. RHP Brad Lincoln, who worked two innings last night, is definitely not available today, Hurdle said.

»»» Kevin Correia is riding a three-game winning streak, one shy of his career high (2009 and 2010). Since the start of last year, Correia has won 13 road starts, which is tied for second-most among NL pitchers (Roy Halladay has won 14).

Game 87: Pirates @ Brewers, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pirates (48-38): 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. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (5-6, 4.34)

Brewers (41-45): 1. Norichika Aokie rf, 2. Travis Ishikawa 1b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Corey Hart rf, 6. Rickie Weeks 2b, 7. Martin Maldonado c, 8. Cesar Izturis ss, 9. Marco Estrada rhp (0-3, 4.06)

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Presley might return Tuesday

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MILWAUKEE – Alex Presley (concussion) will begin a rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Indy, then rejoin the team in Colorado during the series against the Rockes. He’s expected to be activated off the DL on Tuesday.

»»» The Pirates roll into tonight’s game at the House of Horrors having won seven straight series against NL Central foes. According to Elias, that’s the longest division series win streak in the majors this season. The last time the Pirates had a stretch like this was 1992, when they strung together 10 series wins against NL East opponents.

»»» Speaking of streaks, Neil Walker is riding a 12-game hitting streak, which ties him with Presley for the longest on the team this season. Only two NL players have longer active streaks — the Brewers’ Norichika Aoki has a 15-game string and the Braves’ Chipper Jones has hit in 13 straight games. Walker’s career longest streak is 18 games, set in 2010. Walker leads NL second basemen in OBP (.356) is tied for second in doubles (21) and is fourth in RBI (41).

»»» Since June 1, the Pirates are batting .277 with RISP, which ranks sixth in the majors and second in the NL behind the Cards (.280).

Game 86: Pirates @ Brewers, 8:10 p.m. ET

Pirates (48-37): 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. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (9-3, 2.37)

Brewers (40-45): 1. Norichika Aokie rf, 2. Nyjer Morgan cf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Corey Hart 1b, 6. Rickie Weeks 2b, 7. Cody Ramson ss, 8. Martin Maldonado c, 9. Zach Greinke rhp (9-3, 3.32)

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Chemistry counts

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Team chemistry is talked about a lot in sports, but it’s not always easy to create. The Pirates certainly seem to have it — witness the Zoltan thing, the t-shirts AJ Burnett passed out, and the King James crowns everyone was wearing yesterday. “When people feel comfortable, when they feel cared about, when there’s trust and there’s really no (jealousy about) playing time, everyone pulls for each other,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It can only help.”

Drew Sutton has played for six other organizations and bounced all over the minors. He knows a happy, healthy clubhouse when he sees one. “I’ve been in a few different clubhouses and each one has had its own personality,” Sutton said. “Sometimes, things fit well and sometimes they don’t. Here, they do a really good job of incorporating everybody into the ‘family.’ ”

»»» Hurdle said he’s gotten good reports from Triple-A Indy manager Dean Treanor about OF Jose Tabata. “I call Dean every other day, but that’s no different if Tabata’s down there or not,” Hurdle said. “Dean said (Tabata) showed up in a good place, he’s played center field a few games, is hitting in the top of the lineup. He’s working hard and he’s playing.”

»»» The starting rotation in the second half will line up like this: James McDonald, Kevin Correia, AJ Burnett, Jeff Karstens and Erik Bedard. JMac and AJ are similar pitchers, so putting Correia between them gives a different look. The setup also allows Burnett to get a bit more of a breather and enables Bedard to take an extra bullpen or two before his next start in Colorado. Bedard is healthy; his slump is due more to lousy pitch sequences.

»»» Today, Burnett is bidding for his 10th win. Over the past 22 years, only four other Pirates pitchers have reached double-digits before the All-Star break: Neal Heaton (10-5 in 1990), Randy Tomlin (10-5 in 1992), Bob Walk (10-6 in 1993) and Correia (11-7 last year).

Game 85: Giants@ Pirates, 1:35 p.m. ET

Giants (46-38): 1. Gregor Blanco rf, 2. Ryan Theriot 2b, 3. Melky Cabrera lf, 4. Buster Posey 1b, 5. Pablo Sandoval 3b, 6. Angel Pagan cf, 7. Hector Sanchez c, 8. Brandon Crawford ss, 9. Tim Lincecum rhp (3-9, 6.08)

Pirates (47-37): 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. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. A.J. Burnett rhp (9-2, 3.74)

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Presley goes on DL

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The Pirates on Thursday placedLF Alex Presley on the seven-day disabled list due to a concussion. The move is retroactive to Wednesday, the day after Presley last played. “It’s just the smart move,” manager Clint Hurdle said. INF Jordy Mercer was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and will take Presley’s spot on the active roster. Presley was injured while trying to make a diving catch in the first inning. He stayed in the game, but didn’t feel well and took himself out of in the fifth.

»»» From the Elias wonks: Over his past five games, Andrew McCutchen is 14 for 21 (.667) with 11 runs, two homers and six RBI. He’s the first Pirate since Honus Wagner to have 14 hits and 11 runs in a five-game span. Wagner had 15 hits and 11 runs in five games in June 1904. “Anytime you’re compared to Honus, that’s great,” McCutchen said.

»»» In this second half of the season, RHP Kevin Correia wants to make up for the way he faltered last year. “I felt good (last year). I just think I had an injury at a bad time last season. I had a good first half and then I kind of pitched mediocre for a month and then I was hurt. I would have liked to have finished strong and then it would have been a good year. But I feel stronger now and we’re halftway through the year and I feel like I’m getting better, not worse at this point.”

Game 82: Astros @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Astros (32-49): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Jed Lowrie ss, 3. Scott Moore 3b, 4. J.D. Martinez lf, 5. Chris Johnson 1b, 6. Brian Bogusevic rf, 7. Chris Snyder c, 8. Matt Dominguez 3b, 9. Bud Norris rhp (5-5, 4.90)

Pirates (44-36): 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. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (1-2, 5.25)

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Dead quiet gives Hurdle flashback

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When the Astros’ Jason Castro hit a game-tying double in the ninth inning last night, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a flashback to July 24, 1983.

Castro’s hit came with two outs in the ninth inning and scored Jed Lowrie from first base. “I knew the run would score, so I immediately walked down to the lineup card to see who’s in my bullpen, what’s my next move,” Hurdle said. Then Hurdle noticed how the crowd of 21,516 at PNC Park, which had been roaring just moments earlier, had gone eerily silent. It reminded Hurdle of a game from his playing days, when George Brett smacked a two-run, game-winning homer with two outs in the ninth off Rich Gossage at Yankee Stadium.

“Never had I been in a venue when it was that quiet as it was that night (in New York),” Hurdle said. “Last night, it was deathly still, which is kind of a cool sound because it was so electric when the pitch was out of the hand. We went from standing up and ‘Let’s go, Bucs’ and all heck breaking loose to … nothing. I’m thinking, ‘This is pretty cool.'” Hurdle paused and grinned. “That’s how weird I am.”

»»» When we met with Hurdle at 11 a.m., the Pirates still were waiting on the results of Alex Presley’s concussion test results. Presley, who was injured trying to make a diving catch last night, is not in the lineup today. MLB has a special, seven-day DL for concussion victims. “There’s a battery of tests that we follow explicitly,” Hurdle said. “The player really has to interact honestly with the questioning process. This is not a test you want to cheat on. It’s amazing what kind of feedback you can get from the battery of tests.”

Game 81: Astros @ Pirates, 1:35 p.m. ET

Astros (32-49): 1. Jordan Schafer cf, 2. Jose Altuve 2b, 3. Jed Lowrie ss, 4. Carlos Lee 1b, 5. Scott Moore 3b, 6. Juan Castro c, 7. J.D. Martinez lf, 8. Brian Bogusevic rf, 9. Dallas Keuchel lhp (1-0, 1.35)

Pirates (44-36): 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. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (4-6, 4.32)

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Patient approach with Marte

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The Pirates are willing to err on the side of caution, when it comes to promoting OF Starling Marte from Triple-A Indy to the majors. “We’re well aware of what Starling is doing down there,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “But with young players, when you’re aggressive about bringing them up, it can present challenges a year or two down the line. You don’t want (Marte) to stuggle the way Pedro (Alvarez) did, the way Alex (Presley) did, the way Jose (Tabata) did.” All three of those players have been sent back to the minors recently after struggling in the big leagues.

»»»  Hurdle said Tabata took the news well late last night that he was on his way down to Indy. “We’ve got to find a way to help him re-ignite and have consistent at-bats, make consistent plays. He wasn’t playing to his expectations. To get him out of this enviromnent can do some good.” Hurdle bristled at the notion that Tabata has become a lazy player. “He’s not lazy. There is just some confusion … sometimes, he wouldn’t get a good first move (in the outfield), so he’d back off.” Hurdle said going to Indy can help Tabata silence the “noise in his head” and simply play ball.

Game 80: Astros @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Astros (32-48): 1. Jordan Schafer cf, 2. Jose Altuve 2b, 3. Jed Lowrie ss, 4. Carlos Lee 1b, 5. Scott Moore 3b, 6. J.D. Martinez lf, 7. Brian Bogusevic rf, 8. Chris Snyder c, 9. Lucas Harrell rhp (7-6, 4.33)

Pirates (43-36): 1. Alex Presley cf, 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 (9-2, 3.31)

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Hanny, Cutch are All-Stars

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ST. LOUIS — For the second year in a row, closer Joel Hanrahan and outfielder Andrew McCutchen will represent the Pirates at the All-Star Game. Hanrahan and McCutchen were selected by the players’ ballot for the July 10 game in Kansas City. Last year, McCutchen made the National League roster as a injury replacement player. “It’s a great feeling,” Hanrahan said. “Two years in a row is pretty exciting.”

Hanrahan has 20 saves and a 2.10 ERA and has not allowed a run in his past eight outings. He is one of three relievers in Pirates history to reach 20 saves before the All-Star break. Hanrahan has amassed 60 saves since the start of the 2011 season. The only closers with more saves in that period are Craig Kimbrel (69) and Jose Valverde (63).

McCutchen is the only player in the majors with at least 15 homers, 50 RBI and 14 stolen bases this season. McCutchen has hit all 15 of his home runs since May 8. That ties him for third-most in the majors in that span, behind Jose Bautista (21 homers) and Robinson Cano (17). McCutchen’s .699 slugging percentage since May 8 is third-best in the majors.

A sprained left wrist, sustained Saturday while making a diving catch, kept McCutchen out of the lineup Sunday. It snapped his string of 49 straight starts, going back to May 7.

Game 78: Pirates @ Cardinals 2:15 p.m. ET

Pirates (42-35): 1. Alex Presley cf, 2. Jose Tabata rf, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Drew Sutton lf, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. Erik Bedard lhp (4-8, 4.27)

Cardinals (40-38): 1.Rafael Furcal ss, 2. Matt Carpenter 1b 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Allen Craig rf, 5. David Freese 3b, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. Shane Robinson cf, 8. Tyler Greene 2b, 9. Jake Westbrook rhp (6-6, 3.77)

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