Pirates (52-47) @ Braves (59-43)
So I have had this road trip circled since the schedule came out last September. As much as I love living in Pittsburgh (I sincerely do), there is nothing like coming home. And as many as you know, Atlanta is home (well, was home) for me. I walked into the local pizza shop down the road from my childhood home today and ended up knowing half the people who walked in behind me for lunch. Now that’s home.
Anyways, the Pirates might not have had this week circled last fall like me, but circle it in red now. This seven-game road trip — which takes the club through Atlanta and onto Philadelphia — is huge. Players won’t say so, and neither will manager Clint Hurdle, but the Pirates can either set themselves up for a pennant chase or really hurt their chances based upon what happens over the next seven days. This week could also play a role in the Pirates’ Trade Deadline activity.
The non-waiver deadline is 4 pm ET on Sunday.
Pittsburgh went 0-2 against the Braves back in May but won two of three against the Phillies about a week later.
All sorts of news and notes…
- Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is back with the club, a move that was dictated by outfielder Alex Presley going on the disabled list. From comments made by Hurdle before the game it sounds like the Pirates were not planning on bringing Alvarez back this early. The injury to Presley, however, forced the club to bring back someone and Alvarez was deemed ready enough, even if the timing wasn’t ideal.
- Hurdle emphasized that the expectation should not be for Alvarez to be “the guy” to boost this offense, but without question, it would certainly help the Pirates to have his bat show up in the middle of that lineup for the next two months. Alvarez will be the team’s regular third baseman and is hitting fifth in his first game back.
- This is just based on my own observation, but Alvarez looks to be in good shape. I’d guess he has lost some weight while away. Hurdle did say that Alvarez spent time developing a strict morning and pregame routine while he was working his way back from injury. That, as much as anything specific with his swing, is expected to help him take steps forward.
- The return of Alvarez puts Chase d’Arnaud on the bench. Not sure if the Pirates want d’Arnaud sitting too much, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they, at some point, send him down to get regular playing time in Triple-A. For now, though, he remains here.
- Though the Pirates replaced an outfielder (Presley) with an infielder (Alvarez), there is no urgency to get another backup outfielder here. With Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, Xavier Paul and Matt Diaz, the Pirates have five guys who can play out there.
- That said, there is a need for more production from the outfield, which has the Pirates continuing to scour the trade market to see if there is a fit to add someone. For now, asking prices remain high. The club is also looking for relief help, which is likely going to be easier to land than a bat for the lineup.
- Ross Ohlendorf is with the team in Atlanta and is slated to throw a side session tomorrow. He expects to know after that where he will go for his next rehab start (assuming there is one). All reports were positive from Ohlendorf’s outing on Sunday. He threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits and one walk. His efficiency, command and velocity were all where the Pirates wanted them to be, Hurdle said.
- While Ohlendorf is building himself back up as a starter, he said he would be willing to step into the bullpen if that’s where the Pirates ultimately need him. More from him in today’s pirates.com notebook tonight.
- Jose Tabata (left quad strain) said he felt good doing some shuffles and weight training work earlier in the afternoon. He’s going to remain with the team doing some workouts before heading back out on a rehab assignment.
- A reminder for you out-of-town Pirates fans — tonight’s game will be on ESPN. Back in Pittsburgh, that ESPN telecast will be blacked out, so tuen into ROOT Sports.
- In four rehab games with Bradenton, Ryan Doumit is 2-for-11 with one run scored, one RBI, two walks and three strikeouts.
- Yesterday in Indianapolis, lefty Rudy Owens pitched seven scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and two walks and struck out four.
PIRATES: X. Paul (LF), G. Jones (RF), N. Walker (2B), A. McCutchen (CF), P. Alvarez (3B), L. Overbay (1B), R. Cedeno (SS), M. McKenry (C), J. McDonald (RHP)
BRAVES: M. Prado (LF), J. Heyward (RF), C. Jones (3B), F. Freeman (1B), D. Uggla (2B), D. Ross (C), N. McLouth (CF), A. Gonzalez (SS), T. Hudson (RHP)
Follow me on Twitter: Langosch@MLB