MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - INSIDE PITCH
The Pirates are in rarified air for a franchise that has had 20 consecutive losing seasons.
The Pirates have played at a .600 clip this season, taking a 54-36 record into Friday night's opener of a three-game series against the New York Mets. The team is in the thick of the National League Central race and holds the lead in the National League wild card standings.
The most surprising part of the Pirates' success is they have done so without getting much from their offense.
Hitting figured to the team strength entering the season. Instead, the Pirates lead the major leagues in least runs allowed, giving up just 3.37 a game, but are 25th in runs scored with just 3.87 a game.
"We've got a number of individuals that probably haven't met expectations that we projected going in," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got a few that have. I think we all like our team, we are committed to working hard every day to getting a little bit better and from the offensive side the guys are mindful. They're not going to panic. That's not a good state or place for anybody to be."
Though they went an encouraging 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position Wednesday night in a 5-0 victory over Oakland that snapped a four-game losing streak, the Pirates have been woeful in clutch situations. They were just 3-for-27 with runners in scoring position during the losing streak while scoring a total of six runs in the four games.
The Pirates are hitting just .232 with runners in scoring position this season, including .219 with two outs. Hurdle, though, is confident those figures will rise because his hitters' mindsets are good.
"Go up there with not, 'I got to,' but, 'I get to,' " he said. "That's one thing we talk about. Your frame of mind's important. If your success is tied to a base hit, that's a very challenging place to put yourself. Your confidence is your confidence. I believe we're in that place. We're not getting the results we want now. As long as attitude, effort, preparation and focus are there, we'll eventually get the results we want."
MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Won one
PAST 10 GAMES: 4-6
NEXT: Mets (Jeremy Hefner 4-6, 3.39) at Pirates (Charlie Morton 1-2, 3.38)
--3B Pedro Alvarez was added to the National League team for the Home Run Derby on Monday as an injury replacement for Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Alvarez has 23 home runs and will join Bobby Bonilla (1990), Barry Bonds (1992), Jason Bay (1995) and Andrew McCutchen (2012) as Pirates who have competed in the Derby. Alvarez, who is a New York native, was selected to the team by Mets third baseman David Wright, who is the hometown captain for the NL team at Citi Field.
--RHP Jared Hughes, who has been on the disabled list since June 6 with right shoulder inflammation, was to begin a rehab assignment with the GCL Pirates on Thursday, but the game was rained out.
--INF Josh Harrison, who was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday when 2B Neil Walker was placed on the disabled list, is likely to start Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against Mets RHP Jeremy Hefner. In his last 10 games with Indianapolis, Harrison hit .378 with a .417 on-base percentage, a .756 slugging percentage and eight doubles. Manager Clint Hurdle wants to get Harrison's hot bat in the lineup but did not want the left-handed hitter facing Oakland LHP Tommy Milone on Wednesday night.
--RHP Gerrit Cole could be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis or Double-A Altoona because the Pirates will not need a fifth starter again until July 24 at Washington. They have an off day today and the four-day All-Star break next week. Cole has gone 4-2 with a 3.68 ERA in his first six major league starts. However, sending him to the minor leagues would enable Cole to keep pitching on a regular turn. Just as important to the cost-conscious Pirates, it likely would ensure he would not attain status as a "super two" arbitration player, meaning he would not be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2016 season rather than 2015.
--1B Garrett Jones gets the majority of starts as the left-handed-hitting part of a platoon with right-handed-hitting 1B Gaby Sanchez. However, there have been hints that the Pirates might start giving Sanchez some starts against right-handed pitchers in place of Jones. In his last 36 games, Jones has hit just .226 (26-for-115) with three home runs and nine RBIs. That skid dropped his batting average to .255.
--C Russell Martin batted cleanup Wednesday night for the first time since June 6, 2009, and went 1-for-4 with an RBI in the Pirates' 5-0 win over Oakland. Martin became the fifth Pirates hitter to bat No. 4 in the order this season. 1B Garrett Jones has started 59 games as the cleanup man while 1B Gaby Sanchez has 24 starts, 3B Pedro Alvarez has five and CF Andrew McCutchen has one.
--RHP Francisco Liriano (9-3) won his fourth straight start Wednesday night as the Pirates beat Oakland 5-0, allowing four hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out six. Liriano has allowed just four runs in 28 2/3 innings over his last four starts for a 1.26 ERA. He also continued his polar opposite performance against the Athletics, as he has allowed one or no runs in six of his 13 career starts vs. Oakland but five or more runs four times. "I just tried to stay ready as I could during the delay, keep moving around and staying loose," Liriano said. "I was ready to go when the game started. I just wanted to come out like any other game, pound the strike zone and keep my team in the game."
--RHP Charlie Morton (1-2, 3.38) will start Friday night against the Mets in the opener of a three-game series. Morton lost his last start against the Cubs on July 6, allowing two home runs to Chicago LF Alfonso Soriano. Morton had gone six straight starts without giving up a homer, dating to last season. Morton is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA against the Mets in five career games, including four starts.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "What he feels is more important than what I'm seeing, but he's in a very comfortable position now. His confidence level has been good. He's getting older, smarter, more experienced. He's putting his foot down and has become more of a bully in the box." -- Manager Clint Hurdle, on 3B Pedro Alvarez.
MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - ROSTER REPORT
--2B Neil Walker (strained right oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 7.
--LHP Wandy Rodriguez (left forearm tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. He started playing catch June 13 and threw off a mound June 18. He made a rehab start June 23 for Triple-A Indianapolis, but he subsequently felt soreness in his arm. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection July 1 and will not throw for three weeks.
--RHP Jared Hughes (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. An MRI found no structural damage in the shoulder, and he started a throwing program June 28. He reported to the Pirates' spring training facility July 4 to continue his rehab. He was to begin a rehab assignment with the GCL Pirates on July 11, but the game was rained out.
--RHP James McDonald (right shoulder discomfort) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 1. He made two rehab starts for Double-A Altoona and four for Triple-A Indianapolis but still felt pain in his shoulder. He was examined July 2 by team orthopedist Keith Meister, who concurred with the Pirates' medical staff that McDonald has no structural damage in the shoulder. McDonald was told not to throw for two weeks.
--RHP Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 27. Karstens underwent surgery June 7 to debride his shoulder, and he won't be able to begin a throwing program until mid-September, which makes a return this season almost out of the question.
--RHP Phil Irwin (nerve inflammation near right elbow) was recalled from the minors and placed on the 60-day disabled list June 3. He underwent surgery on his right elbow July 3 to reposition the ulna nerve and will likely miss the remainder of the season.
RHP A.J. Burnett
LHP Jeff Locke
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Gerrit Cole
RHP Jason Grilli (closer)
RHP Mark Melancon
LHP Tony Watson
LHP Justin Wilson
RHP Vin Mazzaro
RHP Bryan Morris
RHP Jeanmar Gomez
1B Garrett Jones
2B Jordy Mercer
SS Clint Barmes
3B Pedro Alvarez
INF Gaby Sanchez
INF/OF Brandon Inge
INF/OF Josh Harrison
LF Starling Marte
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Jose Tabata
OF Travis Snider