Game 46: Tigers (22-23) @ Pirates (22-23)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

“The young guys are growing right before our eyes. It’s fun to watch.”

That came from outfielder Matt Diaz right after Saturday’s win — and though it didn’t make it into my gamestory last night (there was plenty of other ground to cover), I thought it was worth sharing. Those words, of course, came following a game in which Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata combined for five hits. Neil Walker didn’t have any, though that was hardly of consequence given how much Walker has been contributing all year.

While McCutchen has been swinging the bat well for a while now, Tabata’s performance in the team’s last two games is an extremely good sign. He went 2-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored on Friday. Tabata then singled and scored in consecutive innings on Saturday. There is no question that the Pirates’ lineup is much more dynamic with the top two in the lineup setting the table. And just think about the RBI opportunities that will continue to be present for Garrett Jones and Neil Walker if McCutchen and Tabata really get rolling and sustain it.

Today’s news and notes…

  • Manager Clint Hurdle would not speculate on whether Pedro Alvarez would need more than the 15 days to recover fully from a right quadriceps injury that has been nagging at him for a few weeks now. Alvarez will get the necessary rest and then go out on a rehab assignment to get some at-bats. When that rehab assignment will begin is what no one knows at this point. Perhaps having Alvarez spend some time rehabbing in Triple-A will allow him to figure some things out as he tries to work his way out of a season-long funk.
  • Evan Meek is scheduled to fly back to Pittsburgh on Sunday and will be activated before Tuesday’s game. He pitched another scoreless inning (his fourth in his rehab stint) on Saturday night. Hurdle didn’t commit to using Meek solely in that eighth-inning role immediately, but Hurdle did say that he expects Meek to return and pitch in high-leverage situations out of the gate.
  • When Meek returns, the Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move to open up a spot in the ‘pen. This move doesn’t appear to be so clear cut, as the Pirates’ bullpen has not really had any sustained weak links.
  • The Pirates have only had two sweeps in Interleague Play. Ever. The first came at Three Rivers Stadium against the White Sox in 1997. The second was in 2001 when the Pirates swept the Indians.
  • Speaking of Interleague, the Pirates already have as made wins against the AL this year (in two games) as the club did in all of 2010. The team finished 2-13 in Interleague last year.
  • We’ve mentioned Paul Maholm’s lack of run support many times this year, but maybe that’ll change on Sunday, given that the offense is batting .287 in the last five games. The Pirates have scored 26 runs during their current four-game winning streak. In Maholm’s first nine starts, he’s gotten a total of 13 runs scored for him while on the mound. Only two pitchers — Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie and San Diego’s Dustin Moseley — have received lower run support.
  • In case you didn’t notice, the Pirates are one game below .500.
  • Sunday’s start at third base will be Steve Pearce’s third of the season. While Brandon Wood is expected to get most of the starts in Alvarez’s absence, the Pirates want to keep Pearce involved, too.
  • McCutchen has 12 hits in his last 30 at-bats. That spans eight games and includes six extra-base hits, seven runs scored and five RBIs.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), J. Tabata (LF), G. Jones (RF), N. Walker (2B), L. Overbay (1B), S. Pearce (3B), C. Snyder (C), R. Cedeno (SS), P. Maholm (LHP)

TIGERS: A. Jackson (CF), S. Sizemore (2B), R. Raburn (LF), M. Cabrera (1B), V. Martinez (C), J. Peralta (SS), B. Inge (3B), C. Wells (RF), R. Porcello (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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