Postgame: Diaz bowls ‘em over

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Gangway, Matt Diaz has a job to do. (AP photo)
Gangway, Matt Diaz has a job to do. (AP photo)

TORONTO — The Pirates took two outta three here, giving them their first interleague series win on the road since June 13-15, 2003, against Tampa Bay. But what most Bucs fans probably are buzzing about tonight is Matt Diaz’s outta-my-way slide that riled Jay shortstop Yunel Escobar.

In the seventh inning, Diaz was on first base when Lyle Overbay hit a grounder. Diaz bowled into Escobar, busting up a potential double play. “Escobar’s a great player,” Diaz said. “He doesn’t get away from the bag very much.”

Escobar didn’t throw, but he did give Diaz a swipe in the ribs at the end of the play. Diaz went back to the dugout and fumed. Escobar did the same thing after the inning, smashing cups and yelling angrily. Diaz and Escobar were teammates in Atlanta from 2007-10. Escobar was still steamed about a play Tuesday, when Diaz made a spikes-up slide into second base. The two players barked at each other yesterday afternoon during batting practice.

“He let me know he wasn’t thrilled about the other day when I got him,” Diaz said. “I went and looked at the film and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it at all. Today, it was a case of he started dropping the arm angle down low, so I had to get lower. As I got lower, my legs got higher.”

Between them, Overbay and Diaz have 18 years’ experience. But they played the game like kids tonight with an all-out style.

“We have to show them that we’re on board too. It’s not just the young guys,” Overbay said. “That’s how you break up a double play. Matt’s a little faster than me, so I don’t get as many opportunties. It comes back to we have to do everything to the maximum.”

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Pregame: Diaz steps it up v. lefties

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TORONTO — Matt Diaz, who’s batting cleanup today for the third time this season, has seven hits in his past 14 at-bats against left-handers. The Blue Jays tonight will start Brett Cecil, a southpaw who spent the past two months at Triple-A, trying to punch up the velo on his fastball.

After a 1-for-19 start, Diaz has 18 hits in his past 52 at-bats against lefties. “He’s had a much better month, a more productive month,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s been able to flush some of the body out of his swing, so he’s not using just his body, his torso. He is using his hands much better.”

»»» Dusty Brown and Aaron Thompson cleared waivers. Brown was sent to Indy and Thompson to Altoona.

»»» Luis Silverio will be the third base coach tonight replacing Nick Leyva, who’s out with a sore back. Mark Strittmatter will coach first base.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (40-39) – 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Chase d’Arnaud 3b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, Matt Diaz rf, 5. Lyle Overbay 1b, 6. Ronny Cedeno ss, 7. Brandon Wood dh, 8. Josh Harrison 2b, 9. Mike McKenry c. Pitcher: Jeff Karstens rhp (5-4, 2.66)

Blue Jays (40-41) –1. Yunel Escobar ss, Eric Thames rf, 3. Jose Bautista 3b, 4. Adam Lind 1b, 5. Edwin Encarnacion dh, 6. Aaron Hill 2b, 7. Corey Patterson lf, 8. J.P. Arenciba c, Rajai Davis cf. Pitcher: Brett Cecil lhp (1-2, 6.86)

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Postgame: Paul out with sore hammy

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TORONTO — Bench coach Jeff Banister was on his way to home plate with the lineup card in hand when he was called back to the dugout. Xavier Paul’s right hamstring had suddenly tightened, so he had to be scratched from the lineup.

Paul went through his usual pregame routine and felt fine — until he got back to the dugout. “I was stretching and getting loose like usual, and it just cramped up,” Paul said. “I waited a minute and it still didn’t feel quite right, so I had to say something. It turned out to not be that bad at all. I should be ready tomorrow.”

Paul had a slight limp as he moved about the clubhouse after the game.

»»» After losing tonight, lefty Paul Maholm is 1-5 on the road this year. He’s gotten two runs or less of support in five of his eight road starts. “It’s frustrating that we don’t give him much support,” Lyle Overbay said. “It’s been that way all year.”

»»» Jameson Taillon tonight made his first start in two weeks for Low-A West Virginia. He threw three scoreless innings, gave up one hit and struck out four. West Virginia lost, 5-4, in 10 innings. Taillon had been out with what the Pirates described as minor tightness in his right pectoral. Management also wants to keep Taillon’s pitch and inning counts low this year.

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Pregame: Veras, Correia victorious

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TORONTO — Jose Veras came through at a crucial juncture of last night’s game, getting Adam Lind to line into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

“It was the biggest situation you can ask a guy to come into,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “And I really liked the way he handled the eighth as well.” Veras set the Blue Jays down 1-2-3 in the eighth, setting the stage for closer Joel Hanrahan to get his 23rd save.

»»» Kevin Correia racked up his 10th victory last night, although he struggled throughout. Correia worked six innings and allowed four runs on five hits and a walk. “I do think the All-Star break can’t come quick enough for him, just for (rebuilding) strength,” Hurdle said. “We’ll talk about maybe changing up some things. It’s a lot of innings and a lot of pitches. He’s not quite as sharp as we’ve seen in the past.” Hurdle said having Correia skip a start is not an option.

»»» The Pirates signed 27th-round draft pick Ryan Hornback, a catcher out of San Jacinto (Texas) College North. The team has signed 14 of its picks, plus two free non-drafted agents.

»»» John Bowker has homered in each of his past three games for Triple-A Indianapolis, giving him six overall this season. Bowker hasn’t made any big adjustments to his swing. “I’m zeroing in on my pitch and driving it,” Bowker said. “It’s about pitch selection and my stance at contact. My swing is more balanced and I’m getting to the ball in a powerful position. In the past I was getting hits, but not in a strong hitting position. That has changed.”

»»» Five Altoona players — third baseman Jeremy Farrell, second baseman Brock Holt, lefty Jeff Locke, outfielder Starling Marte and righty Aaron Pribanic — will go to the Double-A Eastern League all-star game.

»»» Four Low-A West Virginia players will serve three-game suspensions for their roles in a bench-clearing dust-up Monday in the game against Lexington. Elias Diaz and Andy Vasquez began their punishments last night. Brooks Pounders will start his Thursday. Drew Maggi’s will begin Friday.

The puck, stick and gloves Sidney Crosby used to win Olympic gold are holy relics in Toronto
The puck, stick and gloves Sidney Crosby used to win Olympic gold are holy relics in Toronto

»»» An aside about Toronto: If you’ve never been here, you really ought to come. I spent the afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is fantastic. Lots of Sid and Mario  stuff and also plenty of Pens fans scattered about, gawking at the displays. There also is much shopping to do, if you’re into that sort of thing, along Yonge Street. One word of caution: they don’t take Visa at Tim Horton’s (who knew?). But I have to credit the woman at the register, who was very patient as I tried out my various forms of American payment until I gave up and forked over Canadian cash.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (40-38) – 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Chase d’Arnaud 3b, 3. Garrett Jones dh, 4. Andrew McCutchen cf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Lyle Overbay 1b, 7. Xavier Paul rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Eric Fryer c. Pitcher: Paul Maholm lhp (4-8, 3.21)

Blue Jays (39-41) – TBA. Pitcher: Brandon Morrow rhp (3-4, 4.90)

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Pregame: Tabata goes on DL

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Yes, that's Sidney Crosby looming above Yonge Steet in downtown Toronto. Hockey is king here.
Yes, that's Sidney Crosby looming above Yonge Steet in downtown Toronto. Hockey is king here.

TORONTO — Another day, another country, another roster move.

The Pirates today put outfielder Jose Tabata (left quad strain) on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Monday and recalled infielder Josh Harrison from Triple-A Indinapolis. Harrison is here at the Rogers Centre and is  eligible to play tonight if needed.

 Tabata was injured in the first inning Sunday while running out an infield single. He was taken from the field on a motorized cart, but was able to walk — albeit with a heavy limp — after the game. Harrison was sent to Indy on Thursday. Because they put another player on the DL, the Pirates were able to waive the 10-day waiting period for brining Harrison back up from the minors.

To cover Harrison’s spot at Indy, infielder Jordy Mercer was promoted from Double-A Altoona. In 72 games with the Curve, Merer batted .268 with an .816 OPS. His 48 RBI ranked second in the Eastern League.

»»» Technically, righty Brad Lincoln was “demoted” to Double-A Altoona last night when Mike Crotta was activated off the DL and send to Indy. However, Lincoln’s move is merely on paper. He’ll throw two sides this week, the join the Pirates to pitch the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday. After that, he’ll go back to Indy and the minor league rosters will be shuffled again.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (39-38) – 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Chase d’Arnaud 3b, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Andrew McCutchen cf, 5. Lyle Overbay 1b, 6. Matt Diaz dh, 7. Garrett Jones rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Mike McKenry cPitcher: Kevin Correia rhp (9-6, 3.65)

Blue Jays (39-40) – TBA Pitcher: Jo-Jo Reyes lhp (3-6, 4.34)

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Postgame: Tabata up and limping

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Jose Tabata was limping, but he walked out of the Pirates’ clubhouse under his own power after today’s 4-2 loss against the Red Sox. A team source told me that the early indications are Tabata will certainly have to miss at least a couple of games, but might be able to return to the lineup by week’s end.

Tabata injured his left quadriceps while running out a bunt single in the first inning. He limped a few steps past the bag, then collapsed. After being examined briefly by head athletic trainer Brad Henderson, Tabata was taken off the field on a motorized cart.

Tabata will be re-examined Monday to determine the severity of the injury. It’s possible the injury is worse than thought after the first diagnosis. It’s also a tricky injury, one that’s easy to reinjury — just look at what’s happened to Pedro Alvarez, who’s been down since May 19 after straining, and then re-tweaking, his right quad.

Even if Tabata does not have to go on the disabled list, help is on the way from Triple-A Indianapolis. Before the game, the Pirates had already decided to promote outfielder Alex Presley for the three-game, interleague series in Toronto, which begins Tuesday. Pedro Ciriaco is the top candidate to head back to Indy when Presley is recalled.

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Pregame: Happy memories

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Tim Wakefield’s memories of Pittsburgh are of a time when the Pirates won more often than they lost, when the fans were loud and the ballpark rocked on game nights. In other words, sort of how things were Saturday night at PNC Park, when a loud, sellout crowed cheered a 6-4 victory against Wakefield and the BoSox.

“This reminded me of how it was back then in Pittsburgh,” Wakefield said. “I’m happy for the fans because they’ve waited a long time to have a team to get excited about. As much as I hate to lose a game, it is nice to see this town excited about baseball again.”

Wakefield, who pitched for the Pirates in 1992-93, also appreciated the reception he got last night from the local fans. “I got introduced as the starting pitcher and got a huge round of applause,” Wakefield said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

»»» Last night’s win against Boston was the Pirates’ first multi-homer game since May 28, when they hit four against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. “We’re not the big home run team,” said Lyle Overbay, who smacked a three-run homer off Wakefield. “It’d be nice to get a three-run shot here and there. Those are big runs. Being in Toronto last year when we hit all those home runs, we were never out of a game. They’re real helpful, but you don’t want to live by it because then the consistency of the little things we do real well will get pushed to the back.”

»»» The Pirates are 14-9 so far this month and are guaranteed of having a winning record in June for the first time since 2009. They have not won more than 15 games in any month since May 2008, when they went 15-13.

»»» Once again, whoever programs the pregame music is proving that PNC Park has the most awful playlist in the major leagues. Bizarre, annoying noise blaring from the p.a. system today. Just a thought — if Sunday games are supposed to be geared toward families and kids, they why not play stuff that they would recognize and appreciate?

 

Lineups for today’s game:

Red Sox (44-32) – 1. Jacoby Ellsbury cf, 2. Dustin Pedroia 2b, 3. Adrian Gonzalez 1b, 4. Kevin Youkillis 3b, 5. J.D. Drew rf, 6. Jarrod Saltamacchia c, Josh Reddick lf, 8. Marco Scutaro ss, 9. Andrew Miller lhp (0-0, 4.76)

Pirates (39-37) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Chase d’Arnaud 3b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Andrew McCutchen cf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6.Lyle Overbay 1b 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Mike McKenry c, 9. James McDonald rhp (4-5, 4.86)

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Eric Fryer gets callup

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The Pirates called up catcher Eric Fryer from Triple-A Indianapolis. Fryer, 25, is in uniform and will be on the bench for tonight’s game against the Boston Red Sox. To clear space on the active and 40-man rosters, catcher Dusty Brown was designated for assignment.

FryerFryer is reunited with former Indy teammate Chase d’Arnaud, who was called up Friday. Alex Presley, Brad Lincoln and Josh Harrison also are expected to get callups over the next 10 days.

“I just got off the phone with (Indy manager) Dean Treanor a little while ago,” manager Clint Hurdle said this afternooon. “I told him I’m going to have a much better feel for our farm system when this year’s over than I did going in.

Fryer was acquired June 29, 2009, from the New York Yankees in the Eric Hinske trade. He began this season with Double-A Altoona, where he hit .345 with five homers and 16 RBI in 37 games. After being promoted to Indy, Fryer hit .262 with two homers and nine RBI in 21 games.

Fryer will become the seventh catcher the Pirates have used this season. That will be the most they’ve employed since 1958, when they used eight catchers.

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Pregame: Overbay perks up

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Lyle Overbay is back in the lineup for the second game in a row. He was benched for three straight games earlier this week, allowing him to focus on improving his swing. Last night, he went 2 for 4, including an RBI single and a strikeout.

Manager Clint Hurdle might take it game by game when deciding whether to start Overbay or Garrett Jones at first base. “We haven’t had a lot of offensive production this sesaon at first base. Lyle’s average against left-handed pitchers is workable. Jones hasn’t done much for us and neither has (Xavier) Paul when he’s been in right field (and Jones at first).”

»»» The Red Sox have two of the top hitters in interleague play this season. Adrian Gonzalez is tops in the majors with 25 hits, a .543 batting average, 33 total and 11 runs. Kevin Youkillis leads with 14 RBI, an .861 slugging percentage and a 1.429 OPS. (Thanks to @BizballMaury for the digits!)

»»» Happy birthday, Paul Maholm. He’s now on the cusp of 30!

Lineups for today’s game:

Red Sox (44-31) – 1. Jacoby Ellsbury cf, 2. Dustin Pedroia 2b, 3. Adrian Gonzalez 1b, 4. Kevin Youkillis 3b, 5. J.D. Drew rf, 6. Jarrod Saltamacchia c, Josh Reddick lf, 8. Marco Scutaro ss, 9. Tim Wakefield rhp (4-2, 4.26)

Pirates (38-37) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Chase d’Arnaud 3b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Andrew McCutchen cf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6.Lyle Overbay 1b 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Mike McKenry c, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (4-4, 2.54)

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Pregame: d’Arnaud in lineup

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The Pirates designated left-hander Aaron Thompson for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Chase d’Arnaud, who will make his major league debut tonight against the Red Sox. Thompson, 24, was claimed off waivers from Washington in December. In 16 games (12 starts) for Double-A Altoona, he is 3-6 with a 4.97 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP.

»»» Right-hander Steven Jackson was re-acquired from the Reds organization for a player to be named. Jackson began the year in the Dodgers’ system, was released, then signed with the Reds and made 10 relief outings for Triple-A Louisville. Jackson pitched for the Pirates in 2009 and ’10.

»»» The Pirates signed their 23rd-round draft pick, right-hander Jordan Cooper.

»»» Central Blood Bank and the Pirates are aiming to collect 500 units of blood during a drive from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 27-29. The drive will be held in the press conference room at PNC Park. The 500th donor of the season will win an autographed Pirates jersey. The 500th donor of June will get $500 in American Express gift cards. All donors will receive two free Pirates tickets.

Lineups for today’s game:

Red Sox (44-30) – 1. Jacoby Ellsbury cf, 2. Dustin Pedroia 2b, 3. Adrian Gonzalez 1b, 4. Kevin Youkillis 3b, 5. Darnell McDonald lf, 6. Mike Cameron rf, Jason Varitek c, 8. Marco Scutaro ss, 9. Jon Lester lhp (9-3, 3.70)

Pirates (36-37) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Chase d’Arnaud 3b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Matt Diaz rf, 6.Lyle Overbay 1b 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Mike McKenry c, 9. Paul Maholm lhp (3-8, 3.29)

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