Here are some news and notes before tonight’s Indians-Pirates game. And the lineups:
Bats on Fire: The Pirates bats got extremely hot in Detroit and the result was a three-game series against the Tigers in which they produced 48 hits and scored 22 runs.
A key to the surge is that Jordy Mercer, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez have all busted out of slumps in the past week and the lineup became very difficult to pitch to.
Mercer said that hitting is indeed contagious and said that having Walker rolling is important because he drives in runs and can do so in many different spots in the lineup and from both sides of the plate.
“When it is going like this you don’t want to be the guy to get out, you want to pass the baton and keep things rolling,” Mercer said. “I think we have had four or five guys get hot at the right time and when you can get five or six guys on a roll, I think the sky is the limit for this team.
“I think whether you put Neil in front of Cutch [Andrew McCutchen] in the lineup or behind him the other team knows they can’t just settle down on Cutch, they know they have to deal with Neil too and when you figure in Marte, who has been hitting, putting those three back-to-back-to-back it makes us really dangerous.”
Third baseman Josh Harrison said that the key to the Pirates success against Detroit and, he hopes, going forward is that all eight hitters in the lineup were tough outs.
He said if you look at the Pirates lineup, their strength is their versatility and the way they all seem to complement each other and in turn rely on each other.
“We have a good group of guys,” Harrison said. “And our pitchers have also had good at bats and have gotten some bunts down and things like that. So when you have guys one through eight and can do different things, guys who can run, guys who can hit for power, etc., it puts pressure on the other side.”
Pitcher moves: The Pirates have lost minor league pitcher Clayton Richard, who was acquired by the Cubs for cash considerations. Richard had a clause in his contract which stated if another team wanted him for their 25-man roster the Pirates had to trade him.
Also, highly regarded Jameson Taillon had another setback in his road to recovery from Tommy John surgery as the Pirates announced he will undergo surgery to repair an inguinal hernia late next week.
The typical return to competition after that particular surgery is two months.
International Prospects: Friday was the first day of the international signing period and the Pirates signed Dominican outfielder Kevin Sanchez, Dominican catcher Samuel Inoa and outfielder Larry Alcime from the Bahamas.
Sanchez, 16, will receive a $450,000 signing bonus, Inoa, 16, will receive a $240,000 bonus and Alcime, 16, will receive a signing bonus of $350,000.
A big fan in Harrison: Mo’Ne Davis became a 13-year old celebrity in the 2014 Little League World Series as she helped pitch her team from Philadelphia to an exciting run of wins.
She was the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history and while she was the 18th girl to play in the LLWS, she was the first African-American girl.
Friday she threw out the first pitch at PNC Park before the Pirates-Indians game to the delight of the crowd – and she also had a big fan in the Pirates dugout in Harrison.
“It was exciting to see [her pitch],” Harrison said. “And what she did last year was something that everyone took notice of and it is cool to see her [at PNC] because she is an athlete and you can tell she has fun in what she does and that is what it is all supposed to be about.”
A natural rival: The Pirates and Indians have very little history over the years as they have only played each other 33 times.
But as Clint Hurdle found out quickly, the Indians and Pirates don’t have to play often for it to be a rivalry as one team resides in Cleveland, the other in Pittsburgh and that’s enough.
“I hear this is the most important series of the year,” Hurdle said. “In fact, I heard that a couple of times coming in here today, actually from some Pirates employees. It was ‘you know, great job in Detroit but you really need to win these games!’
“So I found that interesting.”
Harrison - 3B
Walker - 2B
McCutchen - CF
Marte - LF
Alvarez - 1B
Cervelli - C
Polanco - RF
Mercer - SS
Morton - RHP
Kipnis - 2B
Lindor - SS
Brantley - LF
Murphy - RF
Moss - 1B
Gomes - C
Urshela - 3B
Bourn - CF
Bauer - RHP
INDIANAPOLIS (49-32) beat Toledo, 7-3. RHP Wilfredo Boscan (6-3, 3.89) was the winner, giving up 3 runs – 2 earned – and 7 hits in 5 2/3 innings. DH Corey Hart (.222) hit a 2-run homer. RF Jose Tabata (.354) doubled twice and scored 2 runs.
ALTOONA (43-36) lost to Trenton, 11-3. RHP Jason Creasy (8-2, 3.55) was the loser, allowing 7 runs and 8 hits in 4 innings. LF Jose Osuna (.298) went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs. DH Stetson Allie (.206) homered.
BRADENTON (37-41) beat Charlotte, 7-3. RHP Tyler Eppler (1-1, 5.40) was the winner, allowing 1 run and 2 hits in 5 innings. 1B Edwin Espinal (.269) went 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs. 3B Wyatt Mathisen (.293) went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (44-33) beat Kannapolis, 5-1. LHP Stephen Tarpley (4-2, 2.57) was the winner, giving up 3 runs and 1 hit in 7 innings. RF Michael Suchy (.279) went 2 for 3 with a home run and 3 RBIs. DH Jerrick Suiter (.317) went 3 for 3.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (6-7) beat State College, 7-1. RHP Stephan Meyer (3.38) allowed 1 run and 5 hits in 2 2/3 innings. LHP Andy Otamendi (1-0, 1.42) was the winner. C Christian Kelley (.192) went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs.
GCL PIRATES (6-3) beat GCL Tigers, 3-2. RHP Chris Plitt (0.00) gave up 1 hit in 3 scoreless innings. RHP Gerardo Navarro (2-0, 1.80) was the winner. CF Michael De La Cruz (.297) and LF Eric Thomas (.261) each went 2 for 4.
BRISTOL (3-6) vs. Bristol, ppd.
LHP Francisco Liriano (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
Game: Pirates (43-33) at Tigers (39-37)
Time: 1:08 p.m.
Site: Comerica Park
TV, radio: ROOT Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7
Weather: 72 and mostly sunny
1. Josh Harrison 3B
2. Jordy Mercer SS
3. Andrew McCutchen DH
4. Starling Marte CF
5. Jung Ho Kang 3B
6. Francisco Cervelli C
7. Neil Walker 2B
8. Gregory Polanco RF
9. Sean Rodriguez 1B
Francisco Liriano LHP
1. Rajai Davis CF
2. Ian Kinsler 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera 1B
4. Victor Martinez DH
5. Yoenis Cespedes LF
6. J.D. Martinez RF
7. Nick Castellanos 3B
8. Bryan Holaday C
9. Jose Iglesias SS
Kyle Ryan LHP
• Clint Hurdle was asked, again, if he had any stories about growing up as a Tigers fan. He did, of course, and it was good. It’s never not good.
"My story would always be the trip we'd make from Big Rapids. My mom and dad would pile us in the car, and we'd come up here, make the drive, and show up for a weekend series. It was very similar to heading to the Wizard of Oz. We were headed to the Emerald City. Not a lot big buildings in Big Rapids. When we'd get outside the city limts, you'd see the big buildings and think, man, this is going to be great. You'd get to the stadium, Tiger Stadium, and it was a museum on top of being a ballpark. I can remember the smells like they were yesterday. The peanuts, the popcorn — well, I guess you can't smell peanuts 'til you crack them open — the smell of the grass, the fresh unis, the old English 'D' on your chest. It takes me back to when I was young, and I have those same feelings every time we drive in here coming into the city. It never gets old, and it's never not good."
• It’s the Pirates’ annual fathers’ trip here in Detroit. Plenty of new (yet eerily familiar) faces around the clubhouse. Sixteen fathers — dads of the trainig staff, coaching staff and players — seeing how their sons live. Here’s Hurdle: "They've got a big responsibility tomorrow night. They're all going to go out and throw out the first pitch against the Indians before the game, so they've all been loosening up, getting their arms ready. Got to make sure we don't have anybody bounce it or overshoot it. And then it's just baseball talk. My dad and I get up every morning and walk over (in Birmingham) to have coffee. We chat things up, we chat things up on the way home. It's fun to hang out. It's fun to have him in the office. I know the kids out there, the players, feel the same way. Their dads have a much better understanding of what their sons walk through and go through on a daily basis. We had them involved in our scout meeting the other day. They all come out like, 'That's what you guys do all the time?' Yeah, that's what we do and how we do it. They are memories that will last a lifetime. They're always precious when you can get a father and son together for three or four days. You need to take advantage of it."
• Gregory Polanco making just his second start vs. a left-hander today. He had three hits last night, so this is a chance to try to keep him in a rhythm and see if his success will translate against a lefty. "We're going to find out,“ Hurdle said. ”That's why he's playing. I like the way he's swinging the bat, so we'll run him out there and see."
• The Pirates had 21 hits last night for the first time since 2004. That last time? It happened against Hurdle’s Colorado Rockies. "We talked about it on the bus last night,” he said. ”I like to tag things, and I can remember walking out of the ballpark after being beat up by them. I was going, 21 hits, that's Clemente's number, I'll probably hold onto this one for a while. Unfortunately, I'll remember this for a while. So, yeah, I've seen the last two 21-hit games by the Pirates, 11 years apart.“
DETROIT — It still feels, to some extent, like folks are waiting for A.J. Burnett to fall apart. Well, 16 starts into the season, he’s far exceeded the plans the Pirates had for him this season. When I asked Neal Huntington before spring training what the Pirates are expecting from Burnett, he said this ...
"Don't expect 2013. Don't expect 2014. The thought is he'll be somewhere in between, and we're working hard to help him be closer to 2013 than 2014."
In 2013, Burnett was 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA and a career-best 3.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
In 2014, Burnett was 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA and led the majors in earned runs and walks.
In 2015, Burnett is 7-3 with a 2.05 ERA and a 3.33 strikeout-to-walk, a new career-best mark.
Wednesday night, the Pirates bats came to life in a big way, like 21 hits and four home runs big, and Burnett stayed the course to go 7 innings allowing 7 hits and 2 earned runs, striking out 4 and walking none. He threw a first-pitch strike to 24 of 29 batters. That’s efficiency. That’s how to eat up innings after your bullpen just won you a 14-inning game the night before.
"It's never just another game,“ Burnett said. ”I take the mound every time as if they bullpen gets a day off. It's not going to happen all the time, but I try to program myself where I'm going out on the mound and I'm going to go deep into the game so these guys can get a day off."
The All-Star teams will be named later this week. It could be the first time in his career Burnett makes the All-Star Game. Is he anticipating the announcement?
"I'm curious,” he said. ”But it ain't gonna change the way I go about anything. I've a side in two days and then another start. That's all I'm worried about."
INDIANAPOLIS (48-32) defeated Columbus, 2-1. RHP Radhames Liz (1-1, 0.63) picked up his first win since being sent down by the Pirates as he allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits in 5 innings while walking 2 and striking out 7. Blake Wood worked the ninth and picked up his 20th save. 2B Alen Hanson (.292) was the offensive catalyst as he went 3 for 4 with a homer and scored 2 runs.
ALTOONA (43-35) defeated Trenton, 2-0. LHP Steven Brault (1-1, 2.08) allowed 1 hit over 7 shutout innings for the win. SS Max Moroff (.325) was 2 for 4, while 3B Eric Wood (.218) and RF Stetson Allie (.205) each knocked in a run.
BRADENTON (36-41) lost to Charlotte, 5-2. RHP Frank Duncan (4-4, 5.26) allowed 3 runs on 8 hits, including a pair of homers, in 7 innings. 3B Wyatt Mathisen (.285) was 2 for 3 with a double and was the only Marauders player with 2 hits.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (43-33) defeated Kannapolis, 11-4. RHP Austin Coley (10-4, 3.94) became the first pitcher in the South Atlantic League to reach double-digit wins as he surrendered 2 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings. SS Cole Tucker (.293) went 4 for 5 with a double and scored 3 runs out of the leadoff slot. DH Michael Suchy (.273) was 2 for 4 with a 3-run homer and 4 RBIs.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (5-7) lost to State College, 5-2. RHP Dario Agrazal (1-1, 2.81) gave up 2 earned runs on 6 hits in 5 innings. LF Ty Moore (.385) went 2 for 3 with a double and 1B Albert Baur was 2 for 4.
BRISTOL (3-5) Game with Elizabethton ended late.
GCL PIRATES (5-3) defeated the Tigers, 3-1. RHP Alex Martinez (1-0, 4.70) allowed 1 run on 2 hits and fanned 3 in 3 innings of relief for the win. Starter Seth McGarry pitched 4 shutout innings and did not allow a hit while striking out 3. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (.500) was 3 for 4 with a double, triple and scored 3 runs. 1B Sam Kennelly (.233) was 2 for 3 with 1 RBI.