All posts by Rob Biertempfel

Game 20: As it turned out, adding an arm was the right call

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

NeverauskasDebutWhen Adam Frazier went on the disabled list on Monday, the Pirates recalled Dovydas Neverauskas from Triple-A Indy. It seemed an odd move, swapping out a utilityman for a reliever — especially considering the gaping hole in right field — but the Pirates figured they might need some bullpen depth with the high-flying Cubs in town.

As it turned out, they did. RHP Chad Kuhl was bounced in the second inning. Trevor Williams (four innings, 69 pitches), Antonio Bastardo (1.1 innings, 39 pitches) and Neverauskas (two innings) picked up the pieces.

“It pretty much played out perfectly,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Unless you’d like to use (Daniel) Hudson or (Tony) Watson (on Monday) or use your other long man (Wade LeBlanc) when you’ve got Tyler Glasnow coming two days from now. You’re really pushing your bullpen. If you look at the innings pitched, there are some guys in some areas who tonight the night they needed to pitch when we’re losing by 10 runs. So, it made all the sense in the world from our perspective to bring in the extra reliever.”

>>> Anthony Rizzo stole second base in the first inning last night. He got a huge jump off the bag and Kuhl never flinched or looked over. Hurdle was asked if someone should have made Kuhl aware that Rizzo was in motion.

“Fourteen different people yelled from the dugout and the infield,” Hurdle said. “It’s not the first time it’s happened to us. It’s something we’re well aware of, that we need to improve upon off the mound. We haven’t figured that one out yet.”

PalmTree>>> The Pirates will have their first themed road trip this weekend when they travel to Miami to play the Marlins. Instead of coats and ties, the dress code on the charter plane is relaxed: Hawaiian shirts and shorts.

>>> UPDATE 4:02 p.m. – LH reliever Antonio Bastardo was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left quad. RH reliever Johnny Barbato was called up from Triple-A Indy.

Bastardo said he sustained the injury during the seventh inning of last night’s game, but he didn’t let management know about it until later last night: “I didn’t want to leave the game because of that. I tried to stay in there because the team needed me to.” Bastardo will be shut down for a week, then will begin his rehab at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. “I’m going to take my time to get my body better, get healthy, and work on my stuff and my throwing program,” he said. “I feel bad that it happened to me.”

 Barbato was acquired on April 17  from the Yankees for a PTBNL or (more likely) cash.  He pitched in two games (three innings) with Indy, and gave up one hit and struck out three. The day the Pirates got Barbato, Hurdle essentially said he knew nothing about him. This afternoon, Hurdle knew a little bit more: “Three-pitch guy, aggressive in the zone. Can give us multiple innings.” Take a peek over Jerry DiPaola’s shoulder (and his Android phone) and listen in as Barbato is grilled in his welcome-to-the-club presser:

>>> UPDATE 4:45 p.m.:  – MLB made a scoring change to the April 13 game v. the Red Sox.  In the bottom of the eight, Andrew Benintendi reached on what was originally ruled a fielder’s choice with an assist to Starling Marte and error on Phil Gosselin.  This has been changed to a single to center.  As a result, all the runs in the inning are earned. So, the Benintendi and the Red Sox gain a hit and Hudson picks up two earned runs.

Manfred>>> UPDATE 7:05 p.m. – MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to reporters before tonight’s game. A few quick hits:

— On MLB’s PED program: “I think there is widespread recognition … that Major League Baseball has the best drug program. And by that I mean testing, as well as investigative capacity; the number of tests we do, given the number of athletes we employ, is the best anywhere — professional or amateur sports. I do not see it as a program failure that we have positive tests. I doubt that we will ever get to the point where any sport can say with 100 percent certainty that no athlete is using a performance-enhancing drug. Occasionally, athletes are going to make a bad decision and we have a program in place that is the best at catching them if they make that decision.”

On the potential sale of the Marlins: “I have a policy about not commenting about sale processes, but given what’s been out there today, I think it’s important to clarify a couple of things. I am absolutely certain, know for a fact, that there are multiple groups interested in acquiring the Marlins. One of those groups is the (Jeb) Bush-(Derek) Jeter group. I’m going to go beyond that. There are multiple groups that have made bids for the club. When there is a resolution as to which bid is going to be accepted, we’ll announce that pubicly. Until that happens, it’s just not appropriate for me to comment further.

Did Starling Marte appeal his positive PED test?  “No, he did not.”

Manfred’s role in the Jung Ho Kang saga:  “We’re monitoring the situation. We have not been actively involved other than giving advice. That’s what we ordinarily do, with respect to immigration matters. That’s generally handled by the club. They’re in a position to do that more effectively than we are.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Cubs 14, Pirates 3: No mercy.

Notebook: In which Cutch recalls The Ryan Doumit Experiment and other misadventures in right field.

Frazier goes down, Neverauskas comes up,

>>> Tuesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs (11-8): Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, BenZobrist 4, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 9, Willson Contreras 2, RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 6.19) 1, Albert Almora 8.

Pirates (8-11): Josh Harrison 5, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, Francisco Cervelli 2, John Jaso 9, Jordy Mercer 6, Alen Hanson 4, RHP Gerrit Cole (1-2, 4.70)

Gamecast: In his last outing on Wednesday, Hendricks gave up four runs, including two homers, in five innings vs. the Brewers. The Cubs won the game on Addison Russell’s two-out, walkoff homer. … Coming into this series, the Cubs had scored 15 runs in the ninth inning. It was the most of any National League club and third-most in baseball behind the Indians (21) and the Angels (18). The Cubs’ .302 average (19 for 63) in the ninth inning is second in the NL behind the Marlins (.323). … Hendricks is battling mechanical problems. His fastball velocity is 86.2 mph, down 3.5 mph from last year, and there’s not enough separation from his 79.6 mph changeup.

>>> Wednesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 2.66) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.94 ERA)

>>> Thursday: Off

>>> Friday: Pirates at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. Marlins Park, Miami. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 2.13) Marlins: RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 3.92)

>>> Saturday: Pirates at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. Marlins Park, Miami. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: Marlins:

>>> Sunday: Pirates at Marlins, 1:10 p.m. Marlins Park, Miami. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-2, 6.63) Marlins: LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-0, 3.94, not including tonight’s game)

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 19: Did Nova make Yankees wonder ‘what if?’

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

NovaVsYankeesDid the Yankees make a mistake? Should they have held on to RHP Ivan Nova last year instead of trading him to the Pirates? “Look at (Nova’s) numbers at our place,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Sunday’s game. “He had some good years, he had some tough years. We had to make a decision. Last year at that time we thought it was the right move to make and we made the move and we don’t look back.”

Nova’s digits in 67 outings at Yankee Stadium: 27-19, 4.35 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 2.20 SO/BB

Nova’s digits in 15 outings with the Pirates (all venues): 7-4, 2.75 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 16.75 SO/BB.

What’s made Nova so good with the Pirates? Catcher Chris Stewart knows. “HIs ball moves,” Stewart said. “He’s got the good sinker. He’s throwing the changeup a lot more this year and keeping guys off balance. And he has a devastating curveball at times. Hitters never get comfortable and they can’t sit on one pitch in one spot. He’s comfortable throwing strikes and knows he can get a lot of outs quickly doing that.”

On Sunday, Nova had success against the Yankees by elevating the ball at times. It can be a risky move for some pitchers, but Nova’s ability to keep the ball low in the zone makes him tougher to hit when he tries the upper part of the zone. “When you throw the four-seam up a little higher than they’re expecting, they’re going to swing through it most of the time,” Stewart said. “The main thing is, it changes the eye level. He’s able to throw it not just in the strike zone, but we’re able to expand on it, too. I think that’s big that he’s able to go up and out of the zone and get swings.”

FrazierST2017SS>>> UPDATE 6:52 p.m. – Utilityman Adam Frazier was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Right-handed reliever Dovydas Neverauskas was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Neverauskas, 24, was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and signed in 2009 as a non-drafted free agent. When he pitches for the Pirates, Neverauskas will becomes the second Lithuanian to appear in the majors. Outfielder Joe Zapustas, who was born in Lithuania and grew up in Boston, played for the Philadelphia A’s in 1933.

This is the first time since 1991 that the Pirates were 19  games into the season before making their first DL move. 

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 2, Yankees 1: The millions (well, 28,000 or so) who were there can tell their grandkids they say Stewie leg out a triple.

Notebook: In which Bastardo is puzzled, Huntington seems set to stand pat instead of adding an outfielder, and Marte makes plans to work out

>>> Monday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs (10-8): Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Ben Zobrist 9, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 8, Miguel Montero 2, LHP Brett Anderson (1-0, 4.40), Javy Baez 4

Pirates (8-10): Jordy Mercer 6, Josh Harrison 4, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jose Osuna 9, Josh Bell 3, RHP Chad Kuhl (1-1, 2.60)

Gamecast: Kuhl is 0-2 with a 10.45 ERA in three starts (all last season) vs. the Cubs. … Kuhl is coming off a pair of quality starts, with nine Ks and one walk in 12.1 innings. … Over the past nine games, the Pirates’ leadoff batters have gone a combined .278 (10 for 36) with a homer, four RBI and seven runs scored. … The Pirates are 4-0-1 in their past five games vs. the Cubs, including a three-game sweep a week ago at Wrigley Field. The bad news? They went 3-6-1 vs. the Cubs last year at PNC Park. … Rizzo has homered in three straight games. … Heyward hit a solo homer on Friday and a three-run shot on Saturday vs. the Reds. It was the first time Heyward went deep in back-to-back games since joining the Cubs. He’s hit safely in 15 of 17 games this season, including each of his past 10 starts.

>>> The Cubs have scored 15 runs in the ninth inning this season. I’s the most of any National League club and third-most in baseball behind the Indians  (21) and the Angels (18). The Cubs’ .302 average (19 for 63) in the ninth inning is second in the NL behind the Marlins (.323), and their four home runs in the ninth are tied for third-most in baseball. The Blue Jays lead with with six homers in the ninth.

>>> Tuesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 6.19) Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-2, 4.70)

>>> Wednesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 2.66) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.94 ERA)

>>> Thursday: Off

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 18: Hurdle says “Nothing’s up” with Cervelli

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

CervelliSwing2017In last night’s 11-5 loss to the Yankees, Francisco Cervelli was replaced by Chris Stewart to start the ninth inning. Hurdle was asked if that was just a way to get Cervelli off his feet in a blowout loss. “No, I think something was going on,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m not quite sure what right now.”

Hearing that, everyone’s antenna went up. After the game, athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said Cervelli’s chronically sore foot is fine — it was not the reason the catcher was benched, nor was it the cause of his lack of hustle on a grounder in the eighth inning.

Cervelli seemed fine this morning in the clubhouse and walked without a limp into the trainer’s room. During his pregame presser, Hurdle brushed aside this situation. “Nothing’s up,” Hurdle said. “I think it was more game fatigue than anything else. They double-checked today.” Cervelli is not in Sunday’s lineup vs the Yanks.

>>> To avoid overworking his pen, Hurdle will try to stay away from using either Juan Nicasio or Felipe Rivero today.

Bastardo2017>>> I spoke with Antonio Bastardo this morning about his recent struggles. The lefty said his health is not an issue. “I’m healthy,” Bastardo. “My arm is not responding well to the strain on my arm. I don’t know. I can’t describe it. When I go to release the ball, I don’t feel like my arm is (extending) the way it should.” I’ll have more on this in my notebook in Monday’s Trib (which will be on newsstands tomorrow morning and online tonight).

>>> Hurdle said Alen Hanson’s “best option” defensively is second base, but the manager does not view Hanson as a legit late-game defensive replacement at this point. Hurdle implied management doesn’t have much confidence in Hanson at shortstop (due to poor performance there in the minors) and is not fully ready — strong arm, but too inconsistent — to play outfield in the majors.

“He’s worked very hard to get better,” Hurdle said. “I believe he’ll be a guy you see get some reps in the infield as we move into May. He’s working hard every day in the outfield and infield. I’m looking for that opportunity to get him more involved in our whole game plan.”

>>> Speaking of the outfield …

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Yankees 11, Pirates 5: Blunders, miscues, errors and outright poor play. But, at least the first four or five innings were fun to watch.

Notebook: In which Bastardo returns (and scuffles again), Osuna swaps digits and Watson keeps on keepin’ on

From Pittsburgh native Randy Miller at NJ.com, a chat with Ivan Nova on the differences between playing for the Pirates and the Yankees

>>> Sunday: Yankees at Pirates, 1:35 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees (11-6): Brett Gardner 7, Chase Headley 5, Starlin Castro 4, Jacoby Ellsbury 8, Aaron Judge 9, Greg Bird 3, Ronald Torreyes 6, Kyle Higashioka 2, LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 4.22)

Pirates (7-10): Jordy Mercer 6, Josh Harrison 5, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 3, Jose Osuna 9, Phil Gosselin 4, Chris Stewart 2, RHP Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25)

Gamecast: In interleague play, the Yankees rank first in walks and stolen bases, second in OBP (.342), third in runs scored and sixth in home runs. … Yankees pitchers have one hit in their past 55 at-bats in interleague games since May 20, 2014. … Montgomery, 24, has made just two starts in the majors. He’ll be working on five days’ rest after beating the White Sox on Monday. The lefty went six innings and gave up three runs on seven hits, walked two and struck out four. Going into this season, Montgomery was ranked the Yankees’ No. 13 prospect by MLBPipeline.com. …. This will be Nova’s first career start vs. the Yankees, for whom he pitched from 2010 to 2016.

>>> Monday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: LHP Brett Anderson (1-0, 4.40) Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-1, 2.60)

>>> Tuesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 6.19) Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-2, 4.70)

>>> Wednesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 2.66) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.94 ERA)

>>> Thursday: Off

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 17: Bastardo’s exile might soon be over

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

BastardoST2017Reliever Antonio Bastardo has not pitched in a game since April 12, when he gave up four runs on two hits in two-thirds of an innings against the Reds. In four innings. he has served up eight hits, including three home runs, and five walks. He has a 20.25 ERA and a 3.25 WHIP. The left-hander and pitching coach Ray Searage have been working — through video work, in bullpen sessions, on flat ground — to correct Bastardo’s release point.

“We see something that’s correctable,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Obviously, the frequency (of homers) is alarming because it’s something we haven’t seen. He has frustrations because he understands the importance of every role out there connects to another role. When he’s not able to finish innings or do his job, it puts the work on other men to pick up more.”

Bastardo has always had a tendency to pitch up in the zone. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a home-run machine. Hurdle doesn’t mind the fastballs up. “I have no problem with that,” Hurdle said. “More often than not, when he tries to pitch down in the zone is when these mistakes have come. We’ve continued to remind him of the fact that based on spin rate, he’s a guy who pitches better up in the zone. We continue to reinforce his strengths to him.”

A few days ago, Bastardo had an extended bullpen session and showed some signs of progress. This morning, Hurdle said “it’s been long enough” between outings and indicated Bastado will soon get in a game, even if it’s not a blowout either way.

>>> Jose Osuna changed his uniform number for 64 (which he wore during spring training and in the first three games of his career) to 36. “I used that number when I was young,” Osuna said. “I (asked for it) before, but they just gave it to me today.”

Watson>>> With 410 career appearances in a Pirates uniform, Tony Watson has tied right-hander Dave Giusti for seventh place on the club’s all-time list. Among lefties, Watson ranks second behind Wilbur Cooper, who pitched in 469 games for the Pirates from  1912 to 1924. Elroy Face tops the chart with 802 appearances.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 6, Yankees 3: With iffy defense behind him, Glasnow fell one out shy of notching his first big league victory

Gorman: Marte’s suspension puts Pirates in a tough spot

Notebook: Osuna makes first big league start in right field

>>> Saturday: Yankees at Pirates, 4:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees (10-6): Jacoby Ellsbury 8, Aaron Hicks 7, Chase Headley 5, Starlin Castro 4, Aaron Judge 9, Greg Bird 3, Austin Romine 2, Ronald Torreyes 6, RHP Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.44)

Pirates (7-9): Adam Frazier 4, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, John Jaso 9, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 0.90)

>>> Sunday: Yankees at Pirates, 1:35 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 4.22) Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25)

>>> Monday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: LHP Brett Anderson (1-0, 4.40) Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-1, xxx)

>>> Tuesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 6.19) Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-2, 4.70)

>>> Wednesday: Cubs at Pirates, 7:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 2.66) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.94 ERA)

>>> Thursday: Off

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 15: Band of brothers? Yes and no.

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

MarteHandST. LOUIS — There was no finger-pointing in the Pirates’ clubhouse on Tuesday after the news broke that Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for using steroids. The harshest (if you can call it that) comment came from Andrew McCutchen, who noted: “When you make a mistake, you’ve got to pay for it.” Almost immediately, McCutchen tried to walk it back by adding: “All you can do is try to be his support. He has our support. He has my support.”

Gerrit Cole: “We love the guy. He’s our teammate. People make mistakes. We don’t know everything that’s gone into it. I haven’t walked in his shoes before. We’ll try to reserve judgement, because he’s our brother.”

Gregory Polanco: “It’s something that I didn’t imagine. It’s something that’s heartbreaking. You see your brother going through this and see his face. That’s not easy for me.”

Josh Harrison: “It’s something he’s got to deal with on his own. But if he ever wants to reach out, he knows he’s not exiled. People make mistakes. Anytime you hear about something like this, whether it’s a teammate or not, it’s always a shock. Our job is not to be consumed with it. Our job is to go out and play. It’s tougher on him than it is on us. That’s what we’ve got to realize.”

Within minutes of MLB announcing Marte’s suspension, team president Frank Coonelly sent out an email saying the Pirates “look forward to getting Starling back after the All-Star break.” So, hey, all is forgiven on Day 1 of the suspension.

Am I missing something here? Marte was the club’s No. 2 hitter, its best defensive player, its center fielder and de facto team captain. He got busted for using an old-school anabolic steroid — putting the entire season in jeopardy — and nobody on the team is publicly miffed? Interesting.

There’s this image perpetuated by players and management that the fellas in the clubhouse are a band of brothers, like Easy Company getting each other’s backs and they pick off the Nazis in war-torn Europe. That’s not quite the case. Yes, the players spend practically every day together from mid-February to October (or November, if things are going well). But, in the big picture, they’re all mercenaries — each with his own agent (and in some cases PR handler), each trying to get the biggest and best contract possible. Some guys cheat to do that. Those that don’t can’t be blamed for feeling some resentment, even if they don’t discuss is publicly.

Big League Stew on Yahoo! Sports got this comment from the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo:

>>>UPDATE 11:19 AM CTJordy Mercer was walking with a noticeable limp this morning after fouling a ball off his left foot during last night’s game. He’s in the lineup today, but could be a candidate for an early exit if the game gets out of hand one way or another.

>>> Minor matters: Joey Terdoslavich, who filled Jose Osuna‘s roster spot with Triple-A Indianapolis, went 2 for 5, including a double, last night vs. Durham. He became the third Indy player this season to collect three RBI in a game (also Austin Meadows on April 14 and Max Moroff on April 7).

>>> You want links? Here’s one for ya:

Cardinals 2, Pirates 1: McCutchen looked like a kid again in CF, but the offense seemed stiff and cranky

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Josh Harrison 4, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, John Jaso 9, Jordy Mercer 6, Chris Stewart 2, RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29)

Cardinals: Dexter Fowler 8, Greg Garcia 6, Matt Carpenter 3, Stephen Piscotty 9, Jose Martinez 7, Yadier Molina 2, Jedd Gyorko 5, Kolten Wong 4, RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

>>> Friday: Yankees at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15)

>>> Saturday: Yankees at Pirates, 4:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.44) Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 0.90)

>>> Sunday: Yankees at Pirates, 1:35 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 4.22) Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25)

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Breaking: Starling Marte suspended for PED violation

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

marte2ST. LOUIS — Pirates center fielder Starling Marte on Tuesday was suspended for 80 games after he tested positive for tested positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing anabolic steroid. The suspension is without pay and is effective immediately. He also is not eligible to participate in the postseason.

When you make a mistake, you’ve got to pay for it,” outfielder Andrew McCutchen said. “He has some things that he’s going to have to battle. He has our support. Guys make mistakes, but the last thing I need to be doing is distancing myself from him. I’m just trying to be a good friend before I am a teammate and let him know that through it all I’m here for him.”

The Pirates called up first baseman/outfielder Jose Osuna from Triple-A Indianapolis. McCutchen, who moved to right field at the start of this season, will replace Marte as the everyday center fielder.

Marte has known for at least several days that he flunked the drug test administered during spring training. General manager Neal Huntington said Marte had exhausted the appeal process.

During his suspension, Marte is allowed to work out at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., and the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic. He also may participate in extended spring training. For the last 15 days of his suspension, Marte will be sent on a rehab assignment with a minor league affiliate.

Marte met privately with his teammates before Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters, although he did issue a statement via an email from the Players’ Association.

“I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job,” Marte said. “In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans, and baseball in general. Neglect and lack of knowledge have led me to this mistake with the high price to pay of being away from the field that I enjoy and love so much.

“With much embarrassment and helplessness, I ask for forgiveness for unintentionally disrespecting so many people who have trusted in my work and have supported me so much. I promise to learn the lesson that this ordeal has left me. God bless you.”

Nandrolone is used medically to treat anemia caused by kidney problems. Effects include muscle growth and increased red blood cell production, but it also may cause tumors or bloody cysts in the liver and spleen.

Over six seasons in the majors, Marte, 28, has a .288 batting average and a .789 OPS. This year, he is batting .241 with a .659 OPS, two home runs and stolen two bases.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 14: Hurdle makes the right call

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

HurdleSmileST. LOUIS — The Pirates were down by one run in the seventh inning when Ivan Nova’s turn in the batting order came around. With two outs and nobody on, it was an easy call for manager Clint Hurdle to let Nova bat instead of using Gregory Polanco as a pinch-hitter.

“It’s a baseball call when your starting pitcher has thrown 52 pitches,” Hurdle said. “If I bring in (Polanco) there’s a chance (reliever Brett) Cecil is going to match up left on left, and that’s not a good way for me to bow out to Nova. He’s been a guy who’s taken care of us, so I wanted to give him an opportunity to pitch and (also) try to get a better matchup (later) for Polanco.”

Nova appreciated Hurdle’s gesture. “That was a huge thing he did for me, the confidence,” Nova said. “You understand the situation. Personally, I don’t want to come out of the game. But, if the situation means we have to use a pinch-hitter, that’s fine. He gave me the confidence to go back out and I give him thanks for that.”

It all ended up working out well … sort of. Nova tossed a gem, allowing just two runs in eight innings and tossing just 78 pitches. Polanco pinch-hit in the ninth and smacked an RBI double off closer Seung Hwan Oh. However, the Pirates lost to the Cardinals, 2-1.

>>> Earlier today, I chatted with Buster Olney about Andrew McCutchen’s bounceback potential, Gerrit Cole‘s ace potential and Jung Ho Kang‘s coming to America potential:

>>> Root Sports will televise Game 4 of the Penguins-Blue Jackets playoff series tonight. MLB Network will broadcast the Pirates game in the Pittsburgh market.

>>> Did you know that Nova has thrown more complete games (four) since Aug. 23, 2016 than any other big league pitcher who is not named Chris Sale?  Or that Nova’s four complete games in that span are more than any single Pirates pitcher since 2009? Or that — and this one blew me away — since joining the Pirates on Aug. 1, 2016, Nova has tossed more compete games (four) than he has issued walks (three)?

>>> From the … inquisitive? warped? industrious? … mind of team PR guru Jim Trdinich comes this nugget: So far this season, the Pirates are 0-7 against teams whose uniforms predominantly feature the color Red (Red Sox, Reds, Cardinals). The Pirates are 6-0 against teams that wear blue (Braves, Cubs).

>>> I’ll just say this: everyone in the park wears red, they applaud when a batter gets the runner over, they appreciate their history (David Freese probably gets standing ovations when he stops at a gas station here) and nobody leaves to beat the traffic with one out in the ninth inning.

>>> High-A Bradenton OF Kevin Krause was named the Florida State League player of the week. A ninth-round pick in 2014, Krause hit .333 with a double, two triples, three home runs, and six RBI during the season-opening stretch.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Cardinals 2, Pirates 1:  Nova was really good. Lance Lynn was a skosh better

Notebook: In which Polanco swings, Kang gets a date, Kuhl takes a walk and Barbato arrives

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Adam Frazier 9, Josh Harrison 4, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Bell 3, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38)

Cardinals: Dexter Fowler 8, Aledmys Diaz 6, Stephen Piscotty 9, Randal Grichuk 7, Yadier Molina 2, Jose Martinez 3, Greg Garcia 5, Kolten Wong 4, RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

>>> Friday: Yankees at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15)

>>> Saturday: Yankees at Pirates, 4:05 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: TBA Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 0.90)

>>> Sunday: Yankees at Pirates, 1:35 p.m, PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Yankees: TBA Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25)

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 13: Many moving parts to lineup

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

FrazierST2017SSST. LOUIS — The lineup has a lot of moving parts, which makes manager Clint Hurdle happy. “That’s what makes our lineup and our roster very interesting and flexible,” he said. “Even during a game, we can make some switches and move people around if need be.”

Hurdle had to do a little shuffling again today, as LF Gregory Polanco will miss his third straight game with a sore right groin. Adam Frazier is in left. David Freese goes back to third (he started yesterday’s game at first), Josh Harrison is at second (he was at third yesterday) and Josh Bell is at first base.

It’s not like Hurdle pulls names and positions out of a hat. “We’ve prioritized what their best positions are, as we see them,” Hurdle said. “With each guy who plays multiple positions, there’s one position where he plays more comfortable and with more confidence than the others. It actually makes sense to us. It might not to anybody else.”

>>> UPDATE 1:55 p.m. — The Pirates acquired RHP Johnny Barbato from the Yankees for cash or a PTBNL. He was placed on the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates sill have one open roster spot.

Barbato, 24, made one outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being designed for assignment. He was on the Yankees’ opening day roster last year and made 13 relief appearances — and put a 7.62 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Over 13 innings, he struck out 15 and walked five.

After being drafted by the Padres in the sixth round in 2010, Barbato was traded to the Yankees in December 2014 for Shawn Kelley.

>>> UPDATE 3:11 p.m. –  Polanco was panting and dripping sweat after a workout a little while ago, but he had good news: he’s been cleared to play.  “We tested (the groin) outside,” Polanco said. “Nothing’s bothering me, so I’m healthy. Hopefully, I’ll be in the lineup again soon.” Polanco said he felt his groin tighten on Friday after he went first to third base on David Freese’s sixth-inning single. Polanco has reached base in six straight games.

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 6, Cubs 1: A hostile crowd, bases loaded and Kris Bryant at the plate? Good times, says Jameson Taillon.

Notebook: In which Glasnow sticks around, the bullpens move and Nicasio finds redemption.

>>> Monday: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root/ESPN. Radio: 93.7 FM

UPDATE 4:38 p.m. – The Cardinals have scratched Matt Carpenter due to a finger injury sustained last night while fielding a ground ball.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 7, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, David Freese 5, Josh Bell 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 4, Jordy Mercer 6, RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25)

Cardinals: Dexter Fowler 8, Aledmys Diaz 6, Matt Carpenter 3, Stephen Piscotty 9, Randal Grichuck 7, Jose Martinez 3, Greg Garcia 5, Eric Fryer 2, Kolten Wong 4, RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

Gamecast: Nova has never faced the Cardinals. …  Cardinals SS Aledmys Diaz has a career batting average of .365 during the month of April. He ranks third in the majors over the past two seasons (minimum 100 AB) behind Zack Cozart (.400) and Daniel Murphy (.385). … Lynn missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. … With 774 career strikeouts, Lynn is five shy of tying Bill Sherdel (1918-1930, 1932) for 14th on the Cardinals’ all-time list. … Lynn has pitched in 19 games (17 starts) vs. the Pirates, his most games and starts against any opponent.

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38) Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 12: Offense could use a smiley face emoji

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by The Associated Press

CutchHighFiveCHICAGO — Andrew McCutchen was sending a text when I walked up to him in the clubhouse after yesterday’s 8-7 victory against the Cubs. He said he was trying to find the right emoji to use. Which one did he settle upon? “I’d rather not say,” McCutchen said with a grin. “A lot of different ones.”

EmojiSmileIt was a big win and, as often happens at Wrigley Field, it was a signature moment for McCutchen. He fought back from an 0-2 count to smack a go-ahead, three-run, two-out home run in the seventh inning.

The Pirates are 5-6 and are still trying to find their stride. Winning the first two games of this series against the defending World Series champs is a good start. The pitching remains a bit unsettled — the bullpen has been overworked (again) and the rotation has produced in fits and starts. To get by for now, the Pirates need to produce at the plate like the did early last season. McCutchen, who’s hitting .250 with a .707 OPS, could use a jolt, too. Will yesterday’s homer be a spring board?

“I don’t know,” McCutchen said. “It gets me where I am right now. I don’t think too much into it. You’re going to have ups and downs. I’m battling right now, getting my hits here and there. It’s only a matter of time before I get real hot.”

And the rest of the team? “I don’t know if anyone’s ever looked at the track record in April for the Pirates, but it’s not always that good,” McCutchen said. “I don’t know what’s behind it. It’s April. We play in Pittsburgh. It’s kind of cold sometimes.”

On Saturday, it was 81 degrees with a 24 mph wind blowing out to center field. That’s gotta help an offense, right? “It’s a different ballgame, definitely,” McCutchen said. “We were able to throw it out there. We had some good at-bats and it paid off.”

>>> UPDATE: 11:28 a.m. — Trevor Williams gave up social media for Lent. Now that it’s Easter, he’s back on Twitter, starting with this hot take:

>>> UPDATE 12:22 p.m. – Tyler Glasnow took baby steps forward on Saturday in his five-inning outing against the Chicago Cubs. That’s enough for him to keep his spot in the starting rotation.

“He has to earn it here,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We can’t just give it to him if the results aren’t cooperating and he’s not giving us the innings we need and it’s starting to complicate things. He knows that.

“However, I’m a firm believer, as I believe everybody else is, that the greatest opportunity for growth is for him to pitch at this level and meet the challenges of the game at this level — and to understand the consequences of not being able to do the things you need to do at this level. You feel a lot more here than you do at Triple-A. There are games in the minors that nobody knows about. You don’t care. Up here, there’s a different care.”

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 8, Cubs 7: Cutch’s homer was the sexy part, but Glasnow’s baby steps also were important.

Notebook: In which Mercer sits (for a bit), Polanco limps and Rivero slides to the right.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: Jordy Mercer 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, David Freese 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 5, Phil Gosselin 4, Adam Frazier 7, RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 1.38)

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Ben Zobrist 9, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 8, Willson Contreras 2, LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 1.64), Javy Baez 4

Gamecast: Lester is one of the game’s more durable starters, having strung together nine seasons of at least 30 starts and 190 innings pitched. Although he doesn’t yet have a win, Lester gave up just one earned run and struck out seven in each of his first two starts. … David Freese is 5 for 14 (.357) with an .828 OPS vs. Lester. Andrew McCutchen has a .174 career average vs. Lester, although one of his four hits was a home run. … Jordy Mercer has reached base in eight straight games and in nine of his 10 starts this season.

>>> UPDATE 11:31 a.m.Gregory Polanco (right groin discomfort) is out of the lineup for the second day in a row. “I believe he needs another day to rest,” Hurdle said during his pregame media scrum. “We’ll find out if he can be a player off the bench today. That’s the best I can give you right now.”

>>> UPDATE 11:34 a.m. — I asked Hurdle if the bullpen is where it needs to be, health-wise and stuff-wise. “Not stuff-wise. Close,” Hurdle said. “I think we’ve got some guys who are sharpening, for sure. Healthy-wise, it was big for us to get five (innings) out of Glas yesterday. That’s why we let him hit in the fourth, to let him empty his pockets with the pitches and push through the fifth. There was some growth. (Antonio) Bastardo needs work; we’ve got to sharpen him up. I thought (Juan) Nicasio was better. We’ve got to be mindful of mixing pitches and pitching to our strengths and not just to our power. I thought (Daniel) Hudson‘s secondary pitches were better yesterday. (Tony) Watson is getting sharper as we go along. I like the work (Wade) LeBlanc has been able to do and I like the work Williams is showing, even though they both got dinged. I think they’re going to provide us just what we need in support, long if needed and being able to pick up an inning from time to time. Trevor had more gas in the tank yesterday, but I’m a big believer i getting guys in (late-inning) situations who’ve been in those situations.”

Nicasio was the goat on Thursday against the Red Sox (0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB). Hurdle did not hesitate to put the righty on the mound in the seventh inning yesterday with a two-run lead. ” I wanted to give Nicasio a shot to get some redemption. I’m a big believer in that. When those guys hiccup, you get them back in there and show the belief you have in them and let their teammates rally around them.”

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25) Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

>>> Tuesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38) Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

>>> Thursday: Off

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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Game 11: Rivero makes move for the better

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by The Associated Press

RiveroCubsGameCHICAGO — When Felipe Rivero’s fastball is on, it is a 100 mph, razor-edged scythe that cuts down batters. When it’s not, stuff like what happened in the eighth inning yesterday happens. “He’s got electric stuff,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “There isn’t anybody who he can’t get out. Unfortunately, he dug himself a pretty big hole. It came down to still making pitches against good hitters.”

Rivero went into the inning with a two-run lead, but ratcheted up the drama level several notches by letting the Cubs load the bases. Kris Bryant walked. Anthony Rizzo was hit on the butt by a fastball. After that, Rivero moved from the center of the rubber to the third base side during his setup. That seemed to help him better harness his fastball. “It was a little tough from the beginning, with my delivery,” he said. “When I moved, that’s when it got a little bit better.”

Ben Zobrist battled Rivero through a 10-pitch at-bat. With his fastball still in doubt, Rivero tossed three straight changeups, which Zobrist fouled off. “I was trying to settle in with the changeup and get control of my fastball,” Rivero said. “When I saw he was waiting on (the changeup), that’s when I came with the fastball.” Zobrist went down swinging at a 95.3 mph four-seamer.

With two outs, Jason Heyward legged out an infield single. First baseman John Jaso stepped in front of second baseman Josh Harrison to snag the ball, but Hayward beat the toss to Rivero at the bag with a headfirst slide. Hurdle said he’d have to watch video of the play before assessing blame, but added, “It’s a play where you’d like to think you can get an out when the ball is hit that softly. We weren’t able to get one. We complicated it.”

With the bases loaded, Rivero fired a 98.7 mph fastball to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras, who hit a grounder to third baseman David Freese to snuff the threat.

>>> Harrison did his best to be a spark plug in his his first game in the leadoff spot. He went 2 for 4 — his second multi-hit game of the season — with a stolen base, although he did not score a run. In the second inning, Kyle Hendricks picked Harrison off first base after a leadoff single. In the fifth, Harrison shot a two-out single up the middle, but was stranded at second base when Starling Marte struck out.

>>> There’s still time to vote in my quickie, totally unscientific, for entertainment purposes only Twitter poll …

>>> You want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 4, Cubs 2: Freese kept getting on base, Cole hung tough and the relievers came up big

Notebook: In which Glasnow tweaks his delivery, J-Hay leads off and PNC Park gets set to host the Nits and ‘Eers

>>> Saturday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

UPDATE 11:20 A.M. — Gregory Polanco was scratched due to what the team says is right groin discomfort. His status is day to day. According to the team, Polanco noticed the discomfort during yesterday’s game, but not on any specific play. … Also, Hurdle confirmed Cervelli was sick yesterday and was seen by the training staff before the game. Hurdle offered no further details.

UPDATE 12:17 P.M. – The Pirates changed their lineup again, putting Hanson at 2B instead of LF.

Pirates: Adam Frazier 6, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, Josh Bell 3, Francisco Cervelli 2, Josh Harrison 7, Alen Hanson 4, RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 27.00)

Cubs:  Kyle Schwarber 7, Kris Bryant 5, Anthony Rizzo 3, Ben Zobrist 9, Addison Russell 6, Jason Heyward 8, Willson Contreras 2, RHP Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.08), Javy Baez 4

Gamecast: Entering this series, Cubs leadoff batter Kyle Schwarber was averaging 4.69 pitches per plate appearance, the most among qualified NL batters and third in the majors. … Since joining the Cubs in July 2013, Arrieta is 17-9 with a 2.18 ERA in 32 day game starts at Wrigley Field. … Over his career, Arrieta is 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA vs. the Pirates. However, the Pirates have hit at a .329 clip with three home runs over their past three games against Arrieta.

>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field, Chicago. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 1.38) vs. Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 1.64)

>>> Monday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25) vs. Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23)

>>> Tuesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: MLB Network. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38) vs. Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (1-0, 0.60)

>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Cardinals, 1:45 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29) vs. Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00)

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