All posts by Rob Biertempfel

Game 24: Nova goes the distance

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Getty Images

NovaGettyMIAMI — Remember when it seemed manager Clint Hurdle never let one of his starting pitchers complete a game? Last night, there was a moment in the eighth inning when Ivan Nova left a curveball up in the zone and Marcell Ozuna, who had whiffed on curves in the second and fifth innings, whacked it to left-center for a leadoff single. Was Nova tiring? Was it time to yank him? Hurdle indicated it was an easy call to allow Nova to go the distance.

“(Felipe) Rivero was up in the eighth, just because it can happen in a hurry,” Hurdle said. “I wanted to make sure we were going to give (Nova) rope to pitch the (entire) game. We had a pitch count for him that he never got to. He never got near it. So, I just wanted to let him pitch. A couple of times earlier, he’d shown the ability to get right back. My goodness, three hits on the night? It was his night.”

Nova used a tidy 95 pitches to blank the Marlins. It’s his highest pitch count this season — which is impressive, because he’s worked at least six innings in every start — and the second-most he’s thrown in 16 starts with the Pirates.

>>> Behind the left field wall at Marlins Park is The Clevelander, a brassy nightclub that usually attracts a big postgame crowd, especially on weekends. The press box is windowless (because domed stadium), so the thump, thump, thump of dance music pours in as we write our game stories. The music always is loud, but last night it was drowned out by the cheering from a huge contingent of Pirates fans who watched the Penguins-Capitals game on TV.

>>> Joe Block likes to poke around on baseball-reference.com, and thank goodness because it saves us all a lot of time and energy.

>>> UPDATE 11:12 a.m. – The Marlins will hold a pregame ceremony today to honor Ichiro Suzuki for passing the 3,000-hit plateau. The event originally was scheduled for last September, but was postponed due to the death of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

>>> BREAKING 1:35 p.m. – The Pirates  bought the contract of catcher John Bormann from High-A Bradenton and optioned outfielder Danny Ortiz to Triple-A Indianapolis. Bormann was en route by car from Bradenton as the game against the Marlins got under way. He was a 24th-round pick in 2015 and hit .231 in seven games with Bradenton.

The sudden addition of a backup catcher suggests an injury to starter Francisco Cervelli. The Pirates have not yet made any announcement about Cervelli’s status. Backup Chris Stewart started Sunday’s game against the Marlins.

Cervelli started each of the previous five games. On Saturday night, he moved slowly down the line on two grounders and a fly out. “If I am not bleeding, I am not going out,” Cervelli said. “Gotta keep playing.”

>>> Yinz want links? All right, all right, for cryin’ out loud. I’ve got links:

Pirates 4, Marlins 0: Nova, Nova, Nova, Nova, four straight walks, Nova, Nova, great infield defense, Nova, Nova.

Notebook: In which Freese is disabled, Ortiz makes his debut, the catchers give a bit more, and Taillon whiffs (and it was a good thing).

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

Pirates: Josh Harrison 5, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, John Jaso 9, Jordy Mercer 6, Alen Hanson 4, Chris Stewart 2, RHP Chad Kuhl (1-2, 6.63) 1

Marlins: Dee Gordon 4, Martin Prado 5, Christian Yelich 8, Giancarlo Stanton 9, Marcell Ozuna 7, A.J. Ellis 2, Miguel Rojas 6, RHP Tom Koehler (1-1, 5.14) 1

Gamecast: Koehler is 0-4 with a 5.14 ERA in five career starts vs. the Pirates. … Kuhl took his first career loss on Aug. 20, 2026, vs. the Marlins at PNC Park. He gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings. The big blow was a two-run homer by Xavier Scruggs. … Andrew McCutchen has reached base in 18 consecutive games. It’s the longest active streak in the NL and is tied for longest in the league this season. … Josh Bell has reached base in 13 straight games. … Last night, J.T. Realmuto had his eight-game hitting streak snapped. It was the Marlins’ second-longest this season, behind Dee Gordon’s nine-game binge from April 5-14.

>>> Monday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-3, 3.60) Reds: LHP Amir Garrett (2-2, 5.09)

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.98) Reds: RHP Scott Feldman (1-2, 3.25)

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (2-0, 2.08) Reds: RHP Rookie Davis (0-1, 11.17)

>>> Thursday: Pirates at Reds, 12:35 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (3-2, 1.50) Reds: RHP Tim Adleman (0-1, 4.70)

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

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Game 23: Jamo at the bat

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by The Associated Press

TaillonVsMarlinsMIAMI — It’s not often than a pitcher gets to bat with the bases loaded, but that’s where Jameson Taillon found himself — twice — in the second inning of last night’s 12-2 blowout of the Marlins. “I knew someone was going to ask about that,” Taillon said after the game. “I’m aware I’m the only guy who didn’t get a hit there.” (Actually neither did Gregory Polanco, who flied out and was hit by a pitch, and Josh Bell, who struck out and walked).

In his first at-bat, Taillon struck out swinging against lefty Adam Conley with the bases juiced and one out. As it turned out, that was the second-best thing that could have happened. The Pirates put their next eight batters on base and scored eight runs. If Taillon had made contact, he probably would have grounded into an inning-ending double play.

“I actually had that in my head,” Taillon said with a smile. “I didn’t strike out on purpose. I was thinking that (Conley) was struggling, so I took a first-pitch fastball to see if maybe he’d fall behind. Then he threw me a changeup and a slider. I don’t get paid to hit those.”

With two outs, Taillon came up again against reliever Jose Urena. Before the first pitch, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmulto looked up at Taillon and asked, “When you got to the park today, did you think you’d have two ABs in the second inning?” Taillon grounded into an inning-ending double play.

>>> UPDATE 4:31 p.m. – David Freese was placed on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to April 26) with a strained right hamstring. Outfielder Danny Ortiz, 27, was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis.

In 17 games with Indy, Ortiz batted .217 with a .499 OPS and struck out 13 times in 60 at-bats. He is a natural center fielder, but also can play the corner spots. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a center fielder,” Ortiz said through translator Mike Gonzalez. “I feel the most comfortable in center field. But ever since I signed, they’ve moved me around. So, I feel comfortable in any position in the outfield, but of course my passion is for center field.”

>>> Yinz want links? I’ve got links:

Pirates 12, Marlins 2: The Pirates are in for a lotta ball over the next 2 1/2 weeks. This was a good way to start.

Notebook: In which Gift handles celebrity, Freese is still sore, and the Pirates pay their bills

>>> What did you watch last night?

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

Pirates: Josh Harrison 5, Josh Bell 3, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, Francisco Cervelli 2, John Jaso 9, Jordy Mercer 6, Gift Ngoepe 4, RHP Ivan Nova (2-2, 2.00) 1

Marlins: Dee Gordon 4, Martin Prado 5, Christian Yelich 8, Giancarlo Stanton 9, Justin Bour 3, Marcell Ozuna 7, J.T. Realmuto 2, Adeiny Hechavarria 6,  RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 3.92) 1

Gamecast: In his last outing, Straily gave up two runs on four hits in seven innings vs. the Padres. Straily walked one and struck out 14, making him the 10th pitcher in Marlins history to collect 14-plus whiffs in one game. … Going into this series, Marlins outfielders led the majors by driving in a run every 4.78 at-bats and homering every 14.35 at-bats. … Marcell Ozuna’s 21 RBI since opening day is his highest total in any month in his career. … Josh Harrison is 4 for 12, including two solo homers, vs. Straily. Two of the Pirates’ best hitters vs. Straily — Jung Ho Kang (.333) and Starling Marte (.400) — are absent. … Nova has never faced the Marlins. In his last outing, Nova gave up one run in seven innings and picked up the win vs. the Yankees. … The Pirates are in a stretch of 17 games without a day off. Fourteen of those games will be on the road.

>>> 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: RHP Tom Koehler (1-1, 5.14)

>>> Monday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-3, 3.60) Reds: LHP Amir Garrett (2-2, 5.09) Note: The Reds were rained out on Saturday, so everyone in their rotation was pushed back one day.

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.98) Reds: RHP Scott Feldman (1-2, 3.25)

>>> Wednesday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (2-0, 2.08) Reds: RHP Rookie Davis (0-1, 11.17)

>>> Thursday: Pirates at Reds, 12:35 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (tbd) Reds: RHP Tim Adleman (0-1, 4.70)

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

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Game 22: Improvements needed, and quickly

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By Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Christopher Horner

ColeSadMIAMI — After the Pirates wasted Gerrit Cole’s gem and lost, 1-0, to the Cubs on Tuesday, I poked my head into Joe Maddon’s postgame presser. This part jumped out at me: “One of those nights. We always talk about you’ve got to win 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 to win championships. So, we’ll take it.”

Last season, the Pirates were 20-12 in one-run games. This year, they are 5-5. It’s going to get worse, unless the defense improves — dramatically — and the Pirates find a way to score more runs.

>>> In some ways, it’s a little bit amazing the Pirates (9-12) are as close to .500 a they are. Before this week’s roster shuffling brought about by Antonio Bastardo’s conveniently timed quad injury and the hamstring injuries to Adam Frazier and David Freese, the Pirates had essentially been playing with a 23-man roster. Bastardo was so out of sync he could not in pitch when a game was on the line, and Alen Hanson was buried on the bench. What’s more, the club has just two bona fide outfielders and no backup shortstop.

>>>Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports figures that at this point, the Pirates are closer to being sellers than buyers in July. It’s a valid point.

>>> Poor Tyler Glasnow. Earlier this week, when talking about the bullpen, manager Clint Hurdle kept stressing he needed a long reliever available on Wednesday because Glasnow was scheduled to start. Talk about a vote of no confidence, eh?

Turned out, Hurdle was right. Glasnow lasted only 3.1 IP vs. the Cubs and threw 89 pitches. He’s made it through five innings just once in four starts this year, including 1.2 IP vs. the Reds on April 10, 5.0 IP vs. Cubs on April 15, and 4.2 IP vs. the Yankees on April 21.

>>> Through his first four starts with Triple-A Indianapolis, RHP Drew Hutchison is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. He’s averaged 3.8 walks and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. His scheduled to make his next start on Sunday.

>>> Gerrit Cole’s second annual “Uncork for a Cause” will be held June 11 at Sienna Mercato in the Cultural District. The event will benefit Pirates Charities and The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and also will serve as a release party for Cole’s 2014 Sonoma Reserve red wine. Click on this link for ticket info

>>> The Pirates broke out their beach gear for their chartered flight to Miami. Hawaiian shirts and shorts were mandatory, but the memo also cautioned “no open-toed shoes” on the plane. Maybe they’re saving the Penguins jersey theme for after the Pens knock off the Capitals in round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

https://twitter.com/MeLlamoTrevor/status/857708816443600896

>>> You want links? I’ve got a grand total of … one:

John Jaso muses that perhaps he “have played basketball” to Trib reporter Jerry DiPaola

>>> Purely for entertainment purposes, non-scientific Twitter poll results:

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

Pirates: Josh Harrison 5, Jordy Mercer 6, Andrew McCutchen 8, Gregory Polanco 7, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jose Osuna 9, Josh Bell 3, Gift Ngoepe 4, RHP Jameson Taillon (1-0, 2.13) 1

Marlins: JT Realmuto 2, Martin Prado 5, Christian Yelich 8, Giancarlo Stanton 9, Justin Bour 3, Marcell Ozuna 7, Derek Dietrich 4, Adeiny Hechavarria 6, LHP Adam Conley (1-1, 3.00) 1

Gamecast: Ngoepe will make his first MLB start. … Taillon has never faced the Marlins. … Conley has made 44 career appearances, but has faced the Pirates just once before. On June 1, 2016, he held the Pirates to two hits over six scoreless innings in a 3-2 victory. … Conley has allowed one run in three of his past four starts. … The Marlins went 6-1 vs. the Pirates last season. It was their first winning record against them since 2011, when Miami went 6-0.  The Marlins’ .584 winning percentage at home vs. the Pirates is their second-best mark against any NL team. … Marcell Ozuna has 21 RBI, which is tied for second most in the majors. … Marlins outfielders have combined for 18 homers and 51 RBI in 19 games.

FreeseThrowPNC>>> UPDATE 4:50 p.m. – David Freese said his right hamstring discomfort “is still there a little bit” today, but has not yet ruled out being available off the bench for tonight’s game vs. the Marlins. 

Freese hit in in the indoor cage this afternoon. He also planned to take some grounders during batting practice (which has not yet begun as I type this). “I need to see where I’m at after that and we’ll go from there,” Freese said.

Freese said he strained his hamstring during Monday’s game vs. the Cubs. “I missed first on my hit down the line. I was trying to decide where I was going to go, based on (Ben) Zobrist’s throw, so I missed the bag, then planted (my foot), stopped an tried to get back and tweaked it a little bit.”

Freese’s name is on the lineup card posted in the clubhouse. “My name is on there, so to the Marlins, I’m available,” Freese said with a smile. “We’ll know more later.”

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

Pirates: Ivan Nova (2-2, 2.00) Marlins: RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 3.92)

>>> 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: RHP Tom Koehler (1-1, 5.14)

>>> Monday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-3, 3.60) Reds: RHP Scott Feldman (1-2, 3.25)

>>> Tuesday: Pirates at Reds, 7:10 p.m. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.

Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.98) Reds: RHP Rookie Davis (0-1, 11.17)

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

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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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