McCutchen on 20 homers, 20 stolen bases

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Andrew McCutchen became just the eighth player in team history and the first since Nate McLouth in 2008 to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season when he blasted a shot to right field on a 1-1 pitch in the ninth inning tonight.
“It’s good to be able to have that, it’s definitely a stepping stone for me,” McCutchen said. “Still got a lot of ball to play so I’m still going to continue to go out there and play hard and try to finish up strong.”
Said Hurdle of the 20/20: “It’s a special feat; it’s been a special feat in any era. It speaks to his skill set, a young player in his second full season. It’s an accomplishment, but to put up numbers you have to play every day and that’s something (McCutchen) does for us, he shows up every day and doesn’t give up anything when he’s out there, either in the outfield running down balls or in at-bats. He’s got great focus and great determination.”

= When Chris Leroux took the mound in relief of Charlie Morton tonight, he’d allowed just one hit in 23 at-bats in his last three appearances (seven innings). “The ball was elevated tonight the four batters he faced and he’s been dirty, he’s been as effective as you can want a guy coming in,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We went with the hot hand. Charlie battled, we gave him the opportunity to try to get out of the inning and Leroux wasn’t able to make pitches.”

= The Astros have won four of their last six against the Pirates. The seven hits by the Astros in the sixth inning was a season-high, and the six runs tied the season-high for a single inning for the third time. Carlos Lee extended his hitting streak to a season-long 10 games.

= Morton’s home run to rookie Jose Altuve – the second of his career – snapped a string of 338 at-bats without giving up a home run to a right-hander. The last righty to homer off Morton before tonight was Matt Holliay on Sept. 27, 2010.

= Evan Meek blew the save for Triple-A Indianapolis tonight, giving up one run on three hits in one inning.

= More in September call-ups….Hurdle said they will reach outside of the clubhouse and bring up a pitcher for Friday’s start and he’d like to bring at least another player or two. The others may wait, either because they have to (Pedro Ciriaco, for example, won’t be available until a certain date because of when he was last sent down) or because the Triple-A club is still making a run at the wild card. “I’ve been the Triple-A team and the Triple-A manager and you’re trying to make a run and the big league team is maybe not in the fire and if they grab players, you’re trying to do something, so you want to send the right message and try to be respectful of everything that’s involved,” Hurdle said.

= Hurdle also said he’d like to bring up about five pitchers, including at least one or two who can start. He also doesn’t want to bring anyone up who he’s not planning on using. “You can have too many,” Hurdle said. “I’ve been in situations where they want to bring them up for the environment. Bring them up and put them in street clothes for the environment, that’s been my thought.”

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Pregame: New attitude

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ST. LOUIS — Josh Harrison spoke the past couple of days about struggling at the plate earlier this season because he wasn’t getting regular playing time with the Pirates. Before he was sent back the Triple-A Indy, management talked to Harrison about two things: rediscovering the strike zone and appreciating whatever playing time he got in the majors. Harrison, who’s hitting .391 over his past seven games, seems to have taken both messages to heart.

“There can be challenges with not playing every day when you get up here,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “When we were young and got to the big leagues and had a chance to play, you didn’t talk about how much you weren’t playing. You talked about having a chance to play in the big leagues. It’s a different dynamic. I’m old school that way; I don’t want to hear about what you’re not getting to do. You’re getting to play in the big leagues. You’re going to have to figure some things out. I think Josh took that challenge down (to the minors) with him and figured some things out. I’m proud of him for that. We’ve got a number of guys here who’ve changed their mindsets. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity you do have.”

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (62-70) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Josh Harrison 3b, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (9-7, 3.09)

Cardinals (69-63) – 1. Jon Jay cf, 2.Allen Craig rf, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Lance Berkman rf, 5. David Freese 3b, 6. Skip Schumaker 2b, 7. Ryan Theriot ss 8. Gerald Laird c, 9. Kyle Lohse rhp (11-8, 3.73)

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Pregame: Meek goes to Indy

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ST. LOUIS — Reliever Evan Meek (shoulder) reports today to Triple-A Indy to begin the next phase of his rehab assignment, and could rejoin the Pirates by mid-September. “We’re going to try to get him on a workload, pitching later in the game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll try … not yet back-to-back days, but maybe every other day for a sequence of days. As he feels better and his pitches start to get crisp, we’ll look for an opportunity to go back-to-back days.” Meek had been pitching with High-A Bradenton.

»»» Chris Snyder (back) has “an outside chance” of playing again this season, according to Hurdle. “He’s getting closer to doing a couple of different … no baseball-related activies — no swinging the bat, no tossing, no getting in the crouch. But he’s headed in that direction,” Hurdle said.

»»» Derrek Lee (broken left wrist) played soft toss on the field this afternoon, although he did not catch the return throws. He’s expected to begin swinging a bat Monday or Tuesday.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (61-70) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Garrett Jones 1b, 7. Josh Harrison 3b, 8. Chase d’Arnaud ss, 9. Brad Lincoln rhp (0-0, 4.58)

Cardinals (69-63) – 1. Jon Jay cf, 2. Rafael Furcal ss, 3. Albert Pujols 1b, 4. Matt Holliday lf, 5. Lance Berkman rf, 6. Skip Schumaker 2b, 7. Yadier Molina c, 8. Daniel Descalso 3b, 9. Chris Carpenter rhp (8-8, 3.57)

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Pregame: Not enough sink

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ST. LOUIS — Manager Clint Hurdle and Charlie Morton will study video of Morton’s outing Thursday against the Cardinals in which the right-hander allowed five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. Last night, Hurdle offered some theories for Morton’s struggles.

“Sometimes, (pitchers) do not holding themselves over the rubber long enough,” Hurdle said. “They get in a bit of a rush and the arm doesn’t catch up. Sometimes, it could be his hand on the ball. In the past, sometimes his had has gotten on the side of the ball and it’s gone east-west vs. more north-south. We’ll have to look. He was grinding pretty much the entire evening, (but) he had much better sink the last time he had to grind.”

Morton’s sinker simply was not effective. He realized the problem early on and tried to use other weapons. He threw 62 percent sinkers last night, which is lower than his year-to-date rate of 69 percent. He used the curveball 21 percent of the time (15 percent YTD) and the changeup 7 percent (5 percent YTD).

Pitch       Last night       Year to date

Sinker     52 (62%)         1550 (69%)

Curve      18  (21%)        329 (15%)

4-seamer 7 (8%)           161 (7%)

Changeup 7 (7%)          121 (5%)

Cutter         1 (1%)            17 (1%)

Slider          0                      77 (3%)

“It’s one of those things where you go out there and you try desperately to pitch like you have been pitching, in terms of the way you go at hitters,” Morton said. “I go at hitters with my sinker. But if the pitch is simply not effective, you can’t continue to pitch like it still is effective.”

The last pitch Morton threw in the game was a 1-1 sinker that David Freese whacked into right field for a two-run, game-winning single. Morton threw the sinking, trying to get Freese to ground into a double play. “You look back and think maybe I could’ve thrown a changeup, maybe I could’ve thrown a curveball, maybe I could’ve thrown a four-seamer up,” Morton said. “But, in that situation, your go-to pitch for a double play is a sinker. I threw it in and he just got inside the ball and hit it down the line. I’m not going to look back and say that was ‘the pitch.’ I wish I could’ve gotten it down and in on his hands more. But maybe if I get it down and in on his hands, he doesn’t swing. I don’t know. You make your pitch and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. If it does work out, then everybody claps and you go home happy.”

»»» Bob Walk will work as the analyst for the Fox Sports regional broadcast of the Pirates-Cardinals game on Saturday. Cardinals announcer Dan McLaughlin will handle the play-by-play.

»»» Tony Watson last night gave up Matt Holliday’s two-out, three-run homer in the eighth inning. In game one of Monday’s doubleheader against the Brewers, Watson was tagged for four runs in one inning. Holliday hits .250 with a .461 slugging percentage against lefties and .322/.568 against right-handers. “In the Brewers game, he missed spots,” Hurdle said. “(Last night), he just hung a slider on the outer third of the plate. It’s a tough matchup; you’ve got to pick your poison. But Holliday’s hit 80 points lower against left-handed pitching than he does against right-handers. We just missed our location, big time. He threw a cement mixer over the outer third of the plate, and that’s where Holliday’s lethal.”

»»» Looking for new digs in Chicago? Derrek Lee has put his luxury condo on the market.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (61-69) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Garrett Jones 1b, 7. Josh Harrison 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (8-6, 4.21)

Cardinals (68-63)–  1. Skip Schumaker 2b, 2. Allen Craig cf, 3. Albert Pujols 1b, 4. Matt Holliday lf, 5. Lance Berkman rf, 6. David Freese 3b, 7. Yadier Molina c, 8. Rafael Furcal ss, 9. Jake Westbrook rhp (10-7, 4.70)

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Pregame: Presley, d’Arnaud return

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ST. LOUIS — More new faces in the clubhouse today … well, these guys actually aren’t that new. Outfielder Alex Presley and infielder Chase d’Arnaud were activated from the disabled list recalled from their rehab assignments with Triple-A Indinapolis. Lefty Aaron Thompson and infielder Pedro Ciriaco were returned to Indy.

»»» Thompson yesterday and tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings agianst the Brewers. It was only the third time in NL history that a starter made his big league debut and blanked an opponent that was 25-plus games above .500. In 1954, Karl Spooner struck out 15 to lead the Dodgers past the Giants. In 1993, Kirk Reuter threw 8 1/3 shutout innings to lead the Expos past the Giants.

»»» Charlie Morton has a 0.95 ERA in four starts this month. The only pitcher in the majors with a better ERA in August is Cliff Lee (0.58).

»»» The Pirates have hit six homers, each hit by a different player, over their past three games against the Cardinals. Jose Tabata, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Garrett Jones, Xavier Paul and Ryan Doumit all have gone deep in that stretch.

»»» Pirates pitchers have collected 10 shutouts this year, the fifth-best total in the league. It’s the team’s most since getting 10 in 2006.

»»» Altoona outfielder Starling Marte was named to the Double-A Eastern league postseason all-star team. Marte leads the team and active players in the league with a .332 batting average. He has a league-high 161 hits, five shy of the Altoona record set in 2004 by Nate McLouth.

Lineups for today’s game:

Pirates (61-68) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Josh Harrison 3b, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. Charlie Morton rhp (9-6, 3.42)

Cardinals (67-63) – 1. Skip Schumaker 2b, 2. Allen Craig cf, 3. Albert Pujols 1b, 4. Matt Holliday lf, 5. Lance Berkman rf, 6. David Freese 3b, 7. Yadier Molina c, 8. Rafael Furcal ss, 9. Edwin Jackson rhp (2-2, 4.45)

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Pregame: All shook up (redux)

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I walked into the Pirates’ clubhouse this afternoon and noticed two new faces. Infielder Pedro Ciriaco has been recalled from Triple-A Indy to replace Steve Pearce, who almost certainly is headed for the DL with what manager Clint Hurdle called “a finger issue that showed up bad on the x-ray last night.” Pearce went for an MRI exam this afternoon. Pearce was injured while fielding a grounder at third base in the eighth inning last night.

»»» Neither Pearce nor Kevin Correia (oblique) were available to speak with reporters before the game. It’s hard to say how long Correia will be out, but there’s a chance his season is over. “(Oblique injuries) don’t seem to go away too quickly,” Hurdle said. “They’re deep and they’re real. We’ll see how Kevin responds.”

»»» Left-hander Aaron Thompson is with the team, though, like Ciriaco, his addition is not yet official. “I don’t know what my role is going to be,” Thompson said. “I worked out of the bullpen at (Double-A) Altoona and I was starting at Indy.” Thompson said he’s stretched out to about 70 pitches; Hurdle said the figure is more like 50. Thompson might make a spot start Wednesday, which was supposed to be Correia’s turn in the rotation. “(Thompson’s) day (to pitch) came up right on the day we needed it,” Hurdle said. Thompson is not a long-term fix; Brad Lincoln will take Correia’s rotation spot.

»»» It’s no great surprise that lefty reliever Joe Beimel was designated for assignment today to clear a roster spot for Ross Ohlendorf, who’ll started tonight against the Brewers. Beimel, 34, signed a one-year, $1.75-million contract over the winter, and was twice on the disabled list due to elbow soreness. In 35 relief outings, he went 1-1 with a 5.33 ERA. In five outings since Aug. 9, Beimel worked 2 1/3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits.

»»» Beimel’s departure leaves rookie Tony Watson as potentially the lone lefty in the pen. Watson, who was recalled Saturday from Triple-A Indy, is 1-2 with a 3.81 ERA and a .226 opponent batting average in 27 outings. He picked up his first major league victory Sunday, but was shelled for four runs Monday in the eighth inning of the first game of the doubleheader.

»»» Ryan Doumit last night hit his 40th home run at PNC Park. He is the fifth player to reach that mark, following Jason Bay (61), Craig Wilson (47), Brian Giles (45) and Aramis Ramirez (40).

»»» Bradenton catcher Ramon Cabrera leads the High-A Florida State League with a .347 batting average.

Corrected lineups for today’s game:

Brewers (77-53) – 1. Corey Hart rf, 2. Nyjer Morgan cf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGehee 3b, 6. Yuniesky Betancourt ss, 7. Jerry Hairston 2b, 8. Jonathan Lucroy c, 9. Marco Estrada rhp (3-8, 4.28)

Pirates (60-67) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Xavier Paul lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5.Neil Walker 2b, 6. Garrett Jones 1b, 7. Josh Harrison 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf rhp (0-0, 7.27)

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Pregame: All shook up

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quake2

Wow. The Pirates finally beat the Brewers, and the Earth trembles.

»»» It’s no great surprise that lefty reliever Joe Beimel was designated for assignment today to clear a roster spot for Ross Ohlendorf, who’ll started tonight against the Brewers. Beimel, 34, signed a one-year, $1.75-million contract over the winter, and was twice on the disabled list due to elbow soreness. In 35 relief outings, he went 1-1 with a 5.33 ERA. In five outings since Aug. 9, Beimel worked 2 1/3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits.

»»» Beimel’s departure leaves rookie Tony Watson as the lone lefty in the pen. Watson, who was recalled Saturday from Triple-A Indy, is 1-2 with a 3.81 ERA and a .226 opponent batting average in 27 outings. He picked up his first major league victory Sunday, but was shelled for four runs Monday in the eighth inning of the first game of the doubleheader.

»»» Ryan Doumit last night hit his 40th home run at PNC Park. He is the fifth player to reach that mark, following Jason Bay (61), Craig Wilson (47), Brian Giles (45) and Aramis Ramirez (40).

»»» Bradenton catcher Ramon Cabrera leads the High-A Florida State League with a .347 batting average.

Lineups for today’s game:

Brewers (77-53) –  1. Corey Hart rf, 2. Nyjer Morgan cf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGehee 3b, 6. Yuniesky Betancourt ss, 7. Jerry Hairston 2b, 8. Jonathan Lucroy c, 9. Marco Estrada rhp (3-8, 4.28)

Pirates (60-67) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Xavier Paul lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Ludwick lf, 5.Neil Walker 2b, 6. Garrett Jones 1b, 7. Josh Harrison 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf rhp (0-0, 7.27)

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Pregame: Hanny, Veras off limits

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It’s such a nice day today, let’s play two. The Brewers have never swept a doubleheader against the Pirates, which is good news. The Pirates have dropped their past 12 games agianst the Brewers, which is bad. The teams’ last doubleheader at PNC Park was Sept. 13, 2006, when they split. The Pirates swept the Brewers in a twinbill at PNC Park on July 2, 2004.

»»» Relievers Joel Hanrahan and Jose Veras will not be available to pitch in either end of the doubleheader today. Manager Clint Hurdle said it’ll be a “mix-and-match” situation in each game. Hanrahan and Veras each have pitched the last three days in a row, which is Hurdle’s limit for a reliever. Also, Jason Grilli will be limited today after tossing a 30-pitch inning on Sunday.

»»» Reliever Chris Leroux is in town — his gear is in his locker at PNC Park — but he has not yet been officially activated off the disabled list. If the bullpen is burned out after game one today, the Pirates could make a roster move and add Leroux.

»»» Hurdle said there were no surprises during Paul Maholm’s shoulder exam today with Dr. James Andrews, but Hurdle refused to elaborate.

»»» The Pirates are off to a 3-6 start in their 20-game stretch against NL Central teams. So far this season, they are 28-26 against division foes.

»»» At Double-A Altoona, right-hander Michael Dubee went on the seven-day disabled list. Lefty Tyler Cox was promoted form High-A Bradenton.

Lineups for today’s first game:

Brewers (76-52) — 1. Nyjer Morgan cf, 2. Jerry Hairston 2b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Mark Kotsay rf, 6. Yuniesky Betancourt ss, 7. George Kottaras c, 8. Craig Counsell 3b, 9. Chris Narveson lhp (8-6, 4.49)

Pirates (58-66) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Josh Harrison 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Ludwick lf, 5. Steve Pearce 1b, 6. Ronny Cedeno ss, 7. Brandon Wood 3b, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (9-6, 3.12)

Pitchers for second game:  Brewers RHP Zach Greinke (12-4, 3.92) vs. Pirates RHP Brad Lincoln (0-0, 5.40)

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Pregame: Maholm on the DL

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For the first time since making his major league debut in 2005, Paul Maholm is on the disabled list. “I don’t really know what to do with myself,” Maholm said with a laugh. The left-hander is on the 15-day DL due to tightness in the front of his left shoulder.

“Hopefully, it’s a quick thing,” Maholm said. “I don’t think it’s anything big. It just got to the point where I thought I was doing harm to myself and the team by continuing to go out there. It’s been there for a little bit; it’s gone away and come back. I’ve dealt with it other years and it’s usually gone away. This time, it kept lingering. It’s more frustrating than anything. I could still go out there and pitch, but I don’t think I’d be as effective as I need to be.”

»»» Lefty reliever Tony Watson was recalled from Triple-A Indy. The Pirates still haven’t announced their plan for the starting rotation. Ross Ohlendorf almost certainly will be part of it. But they also need a spot starter for one of the games in Monday’s doubleheader.

»»» Top draft pick Gerrit Cole will meet the media at 2:30 p.m. today at PNC Park. This is just an educated hunch, but … he’ll say he’s happy to be here, he’s glad the contract sutff is done, the negotiations were hard and crazy, he can’t wait to get back on the field and he’s sure the Pirates will be big winners in the near future.

»»»As he moved through the clubhouse earlier this afternoon, Jose Tabata was asked how he’s doing. “Nervous,” he said, walking away without further explanation. Perhaps his six-year contract extension has been finalized and is about to be announced.

Lineups for today’s game:

Reds (61-64) – 1. Brandon Phillips 2b, 2. Fred Lewis lf, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Jay Bruce rf, 5. Miguel Cairo 3b, 6. Drew Stubbs cf, 7. Ramon Hernandez c, 8. Paul Janish ss, 9. Dontrelle Willis rhp (0-3, 4.08)

Pirates (58-65) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Garrett Jones 1b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Ludwick lf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Brandon Wood 3b, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. Charlie Morton rhp (9-6, 3.43)

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Pregame: Contract extensions

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The Pirates are finalizing a long-term contract with outfielder Jose Tabata and also are deep into talks with second baseman Neil Walker about a similar deal, several team and league sources confirmed to the Tribune-Review on Friday.

However, contract talks have stalled between the club and All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both sides say they are willing to re-open negotiations, but there has been no movement for the past few weeks.

According to sources, Tabata, 23, has agreed to a six-year contract. The deal also has three team options that would carry through his early free-agent years. Financial terms are not yet available. More details in tomorrow’s Trib.

It’s interesting that news of the contract extensions broke on the same day second-round draft pick Josh Bell is in town to meet the media after signing with the Pirates. Bell got a $5 million bonus.

Lineups for today’s game:

Reds (60-64) – 1. Brandon Phillips 2b, 2. Fred Lewis lf, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Jay Bruce rf, 5. Todd Frazier 3b, 6. Drew Stubbs cf, 7. Ryan Hanigan c, 8. Paul Janish ss, 9. Homer Bailey rhp (7-5, 4.43)

Pirates (58-64) – 1. Jose Tabata rf, 2. Garrett Jones 1b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Ryan Ludwick lf, 7. Brandon Wood 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. 9. Kevin Correia rhp (12-11, 4.62)

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