September 4: Cardinals (79-56) @ Pirates (53-79)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Well, it has to get better, folks. Right? After an 0-7 road trip that included sweeps at the hands of the Brewers and Reds, the Pirates are home for six against division foes St. Louis and Chicago. There are certainly numbers to back the projection that the Pirates are bound to break out of this losing streak quickly… though there are as many ominous stats, too.

The good: The Pirates are 35-29 at home this season, which includes wins in seven of nine games last homestand.

The bad: The Cardinals and Cubs have combined to go 14-6 against the Bucs this season.

The ugly: The Pirates have won just two of their last nine games overall and are 19-39 against teams from the NL Central this year.

Oh, and I guess the inevitable countdown can begin — three more games until loss No. 82. Enough said.

As for today’s news, notes and randomness…

  • First baseman Jeff Clement is no longer a given to join the club this month. Clement was initially going to be a part of the second wave of call-ups (next Tuesday after the Triple-A season is over), but has been out since Aug. 27 with an oblique strain. The organization is considering sending him to instructional league for extra work this month rather than bringing him up to the big league club right off the injury
  • It’s expected that catcher Robinzon Diaz and shortstop Brian Bixler are the only other two players summoned from Indianapolis’ roster next week.
  • Reliever Jeff Karstens (lower back strain) made another two-inning rehab appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday. He didn’t allow a run and struck out one. He is scheduled to return to the team as soon as his 15 days is up next week.
  • Lefty Donnie Veal (sprained left index finger) will likely remain with Altoona through the Curve’s final set of games and then return to Pittsburgh next week. He has so far pitched 11 1/3 innings in a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona. He has allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked nine and struck out 16.
  • Right-hander Jose Ascanio continues to throw long toss and is close to being ready to throw off the mound. The Pirates are hopeful that he’ll be able to contribute out of the bullpen for the season’s final two weeks or so.
  • Though he’s not in the lineup, Pittsburgh-area native Neil Walker is preparing to play in his first game at PNC Park. He said he expects 20-25 family and close friends to be in attendance on Friday.
  • Altoona named Pedro Alvarez the team’s Most Valuable Player for the season. After starting the year with Lynchburg, Alvarez played his final 60 games with the Curve. He hit .333 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs. The Curve named Yoslan Herrera (11-1, 3.23 ERA in 23 appearances) the team’s Pitcher of the Year. Catcher Miguel Perez (.266 in 28 games) was given Altoona’s “Unsung Hero Award” largely for being a mentor to the young catchers on the team.
  • Indianapolis catcher Erik Kratz was named to the Triple-A Postseason All-Star Team. He led all IL catchers with 11 homers and 42 RBIs this season. Kratz also represented the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate in the mid-season All-Star Game.
  • With final rosters for the World Cup not out, the Pirates will be represented by six players. Those include Alvarez (USA), Brad Lincoln (USA), Dustin Molleken (Canada), R.J. Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), Tom Boleska (Great Britain) and Gift Ngoepe (South Africa).
  • Also, for those of you who don’t frequent the Triple-A website — indyindians.com — often, I wanted to point you to something that might be of interest. The Indians are currently having a game-worn jersey auction. The auction ends on Sept. 10 and since a number of these jerseys belong to players who are now in Pittsburgh (Andrew McCutchen, Lastings Milledge, Daniel McCutchen, Walker, Garrett Jones) or elsewhere (Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, Jack Wilson), I thought some of you might be interested. Here is the auction link.

Pirates lineup:

  1. Andrew McCutchen (CF)
  2. Delwyn Young (2B)
  3. Garrett Jones (1B)
  4. Lastings Milledge (LF)
  5. Ryan Doumit (C)
  6. Andy LaRoche (3B)
  7. Brandon Moss (RF)
  8. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
  9. Kevin Hart (RHP)

Cardinals lineup:

  1. Skip Schumaker (2B)
  2. Colby Rasmus (CF)
  3. Albert Pujols (1B)
  4. Matt Holliday (LF)
  5. Ryan Ludwick (RF)
  6. Mark DeRosa (3B)
  7. Yadier Molina (C)
  8. Brendan Ryan (SS)
  9. Adam Wainwright (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB     

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