MIAMI -- After playing four games against a Marlins team that is now 51-77, the Pirates return home to play the Rockies, who are 51-74.
Friday: LHP Francisco Liriano (9-6, 3.23) for the Pirates; RHP Jon Gray (0-0, 5.94) for the Rockies.
Saturday: LHP J.A. Happ (2-1, 2.08) for the Pirates; LHP Chris Rusin (4-6, 4.97) for the Rockies.
Sunday: RHP Charlie Morton (8-5, 4.20) for the Pirates; LHP Jorge De La Rosa (7-6, 4.61) for the Rockies.
This is a Rockies team that no longer has Troy Tulowitzki and has lost 12 of 16.
After that, 26 of the final 33 games come against NL Central opponents, including 17 in a row starting Sept. 1. The first nine of those come on the road, against the Brewers, Cardinals and Reds.
Pirates’ record against division opponents:
Cubs: 5-7 (3-3 home, 2-4 away)
Reds: 4-9 (2-4 home, 2-5 away)
Brewers: 6-6 (4-2 home, 2-4 away)
Cardinals: 6-7 (5-2 home, 1-5 away)
Total: 21-29 (14-11 home, 7-18 away)
So that nine-game road trip could be large.
The Pirates, as of this writing with the Cardinals currently playing the Diamondbacks, are four games back of first place and four games ahead of the Cubs in the wild-card standings, meaning they would host the one-game playoff at PNC Park. They play 13 games against those two teams in the next month, six against the Cardinals and seven against the Cubs.
“It’s fun, man,” Josh Harrison said. “It’s no secret what the Cubs are doing, what the Cardinals are doing, what we’re doing. But we do a good job of not worrying about that.”
INDIANAPOLIS (77-56) lost to Louisville, 2-1. LHP Bobby LaFromboise (1-2, 3.00) gave up a 2-run homer in his only inning of relief to take the loss. C Tony Sanchez (.233) doubled for the team’s only extra-base hit, while Corey Hart (.158) had an RBI pinch-hit single in the ninth.
ALTOONA (69-62) lost to Trenton, 6-4. RHP Jason Creasy (10-8, 4.60) gave up 5 runs – 4 earned – on 9 hits in 3 1/3 innings to take the loss. Mel Rojas Jr. (.252) went 2 for 3 with a triple and run scored, while CF Andy Vasquez (.245) hit his second homer of the season and drove in two.
BRADENTON (67-62) lost to Fort Myers, 3-2. RHP Frank Duncan (8-10, 4.40) was touched up for 3 runs – 1 earned – on 9 hits in 6 innings to get the loss. 1B Jordan Steranka (.242) went 2 for 4 and 3B Wyatt Mathisen (.267) was 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored. C Reese McGuire (.261) and SS Chris Diaz (.243) drove in the Marauders 2 runs in the ninth.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (78-50) lost to Augusta, 2-1. RHP Jake Burnette (4-4, 4.66) gave up 1 run and walked 4 batters in 1 inning of relief to take the loss. Starter Yeudy Garcia (2.11) gave up 1 run on 6 hits and struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings. C Tyler Gushue (.232) doubled and scored a run and LF Elvis Escobar (.301) singled for the team’s only 2 hits.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (35-30) defeated Mahoning Valley, 7-2. RHP Jonathan Brubaker (5-4, 2.93) gave up 2 hits and struck out 3 in 6 shutout innings. 2B Mitchell Tolman (.275) was 2 for 4 with a double, a triple, 1 RBI and a run scored. CF Casey Hughston (.212) was 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and a run scored.
BRISTOL (27-32) lost to Pulaski, 4-2. RHP Marek Minarik (2-5, 5.98) gave up 3 runs – 1 earned – on 1 hit and 2 walks in 1 2/3 innings of relief to take the loss. CF Sandy Santos (.262) and SS Bealyn Chourio (.250) each hit solo homers.
GCL PIRATES (27-30) lost their 11th consecutive game and were shut out for the second consecutive game, 5-0, to GCL Phillies. RHP Yunior Montero (3-4, 4.66) gave up 3 runs on 4 hits, including a home run, in 4 innings to take the loss. SS Adrian Valerio (.222) was 2 for 4.
MIAMI -- The Pirates are in a stretch of facing five left-handed starters in six days, presenting manager Clint Hurdle with another factor to consider as he plays musical chairs with his lineups. In addition to performance against lefties and righties, Hurdle and his staff look at several other factors.
“We've got projectables,” he said. “I've got a lot of make-believe numbers.”
For example: Hurdle felt Pedro Alvarez matches up well with Justin Nicolino, tonight’s starter, and Chris Rusin, who will start Saturday for the Rockies, so he’ll play him in those games to keep him fresh.
“He's shown the ability to swing the bat against some of the left-handers,” Hurdle said. “It's his finest season at this point in time with the numbers swinging against left-handed pitching. This gives him tonight, he's had two pinch-hit at-bats, gives him tonight, going to play tomorrow against Gray, there's some continuity to some things.”
Then there’s Gregory Polanco, out of tonight’s lineup but hitting much better against lefties lately. His average against lefties by month: .200, .143, .083, .273, .286. First half: .152. Second half: .308.
“As he started creating some confidence and some success before the All-Star game, I think that's when you see the bulk of these numbers picking up, the pitches per at-bat numbers have gone up,” Hurdle said. “We even take it farther than that. We break down the left-handers, the type of release points and the angle of the pitches and which ones he's seen better than not.”
That is another of their factors: Looking at release points, angle of pitch, profile of pitcher (does he pitch inside or outside more frequently). They use that both to set lineups and to identify where the batters might need some help.
***Hurdle said Class AAA Indianapolis catcher Elias Diaz has positioned himself to possibly be a September call-up, but mentioned Tony Sanchez’s name in the same answer.
***Hurdle didn’t bite on a question about Tyler Glasnow as a September call-up. “It wouldn't behoove him or me to say that he could help us this year, not right now,” he said.
***Josh Harrison is returning to a super-utility role for now, to help Hurdle get everyone in the lineup and to get him more regular at-bats.
“I think that's the way we're going to start it, that's what we've talked to Josh about coming back in,” Hurdle said. “There'll be maybe some reps in the outfield. Based on the cast of players that we've put together, based on some of the successes some of the players have had in certain roles. It's always a challenge when a player -- he was playing pretty good baseball when he got hurt. The hard part of this game is to plug right back in at that level. Usually it doesn't happen. It takes some time. I believe the best way for us is to get him involved in a variety of different ways and bundle some at-bats and get the legs back underneath him by using him in different roles.”
Game: Pirates (76-49) at Marlins (51-76)
Time: 7:10 p.m.
Site: Marlins Park
TV, radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7
Standings: Pirates in 2nd place NL Central, 4.5 games back of Cardinals; 1st wild-card spot, three games ahead of Cubs
MIAMI -- Here are the lineups for tonight’s game.
1. Gregory Polanco (L) RF
2. Starling Marte LF
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Francisco Cervelli C
6. Pedro Alvarez (L) 1B
7. Neil Walker (S) 2B
8. Jordy Mercer SS
9. Gerrit Cole RHP
1. Dee Gordon (L) 2B
2. Ichiro Suzuki (L) RF
3. Martin Prado 3B
4. Justin Bour (L) 1B
5. Marcell Ozuna CF
6. Derek Dietrich (L) LF
7. Adeiny Hechavarria SS
8. Jeff Mathis C
9. Justin Nicolino (L) LHP
INDIANAPOLIS (73-52) lost to Louisville, 3-0. RHP Vance Worley (2-1, 2.50) lost his first start since being sent down to the minors as he gave up 3 runs on 9 hits, including a home run, in 6 innings. LF Travis Snider (.400) singled to lead off the fourth for the Indians only hit.
ALTOONA (69-61) scored 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie before losing, 8-6, to Reading in 10. RHP Jhondaniel Medina (3-6, 3.00) took the loss after he walked in two runs in the top of the 10th. SS Adam Frazier (.330) was 3 for 5 with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI. 2B Erich Weiss (.319) was 3 for 4 and drove in the tying run in the 9th with a triple.
BRADENTON (67-61) did not play.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER (78-49) defeated Augusta, 4-2. LHP Stephen Tarpley (11-3, 2.49) gave up 1 run on 5 hits in 7 innings to pick up the win. 2B Kevin Kramer (.000) walked twice and scored 2 runs. SS Kevin Newman (.290) went 2 for 4 with a double and 1 RBI and RF Michael Suchy (.287) had the team’s only other RBI.
WEST VIRGINIA BLACK BEARS (34-30) defeated Batavia, 4-2. LHP Cesilio Pimintel (2-2, 4.00) pitched 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief allowing 1 hit, walking 2 and striking out 5 for the win. RF Logan Hill (.303) was 1 for 4 with a triple, 1 RBI and scored a run.
BRISTOL (27-31) lost to Pulaski, 4-0. RHP Mitch Keller (0-3, 6.19) allowed 1 run on 1 hit, but walked 4 and struck out 5 in 4 1/3 innings to take the loss. C Tomas Morales (.295), RF Nick Buckner (.257), 3B Raul Siri (.250) and LF Henrry Rosario (.189) all singled for the only Pirates hits.
GCL PIRATES (27-29) lost their 10th consecutive game, 1-0, to GCL Phillies. RHP Shane Kemp (0-3, 2.12) allowed 1 run on 4 hits and struck out 2 in 4 innings of relief to take the loss. CF Michael De La Cruz (.263), C Yoel Gonzalez (.152), 2B Nelson Jorge (.179) and RF Eric Thomas (.220) each singled for the Pirates.