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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 08-17-2009, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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Pirates happy to return to PNC Park

CHICAGO -- Maybe an unexpected day off is just what the Pirates needed.

Stung by a trying stretch of games this month and another tough road trip, the Pirates left Chicago after a rainout Sunday at least knowing that they are going home, where they have had some success this season.

The Pirates open up an 11-day, nine-game homestand on Monday with the first of three games against the Brewers. Since Aug. 2, the Pirates have dropped 12 of 13 games, including four straight heading into Monday's contest against Milwaukee.

"We're not pleased with where we are," general manager Neal Huntington said on his weekly radio Sunday radio show. "It's a continued balance between staying patient and holding guys accountable."

That's a balance the Pirates are going to continue to seek as the organization spends the final seven weeks of the season evaluating callups and recent acquisitions. All that roster turnover, though, has been more trying than expected, however.

Since taking a three-game series against the Brewers on July 20-22, the Pirates have won just four of 22 games. The team has not won a series and won consecutive games just once in that time.

If there's a reason for some optimism as the Pirates continue to trudge through August, it's that the team has fared well at home all year. Its 28-27 record is in stark contrast to the 18-43 mark away from PNC Park. In the team's past 25 road games, it has won only four contests.

"You can't mope," Andrew McCutchen said. "It's a weird game. It's going to humble you. You just have to stay within yourself and not try to do too much."

Regardless of the environment, though, the Pirates' schedule doesn't get any easier with Milwaukee's arrival. Though the Brewers are slowly falling out of playoff discussions, the team has been a nemesis of Pittsburgh's for the past three seasons.

The Pirates were able to snap a 17-game losing streak vs. Milwaukee back in July, but Pittsburgh is still just 2-18 in the past 20 matchups against the Brewers.

Pitching matchup
PIT: RHP Kevin Hart (3-2, 3.69 ERA)
It was only the sixth start of Hart's young career, but it was easily the worst. Hart surrendered five earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 8-0 loss to the Rockies Wednesday. In his previous five starts, he had not given up more than three runs. Hart's problem was when he got ahead of hitters with two strikes, he couldn't put them away especially with his slider. Hart will be making his first career start against the Brewers but has a career 3.52 ERA in five relief appearances facing the Brew Crew.

MIL: RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-9, 5.80 ERA)
Villanueva pitched a solid 5 2/3 innings in his last start, a no-decision against San Diego on Wednesday. The right-hander held the Padres to two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four. He threw 91 pitches, the most he's thrown as a starter this season. Villanueva has faced the Pirates 13 times in his career, owning a 2-1 record with a 2.10 ERA. He has started against Pittsburgh once in his career, giving up two runs and walking three in a 7-4 loss on September 10, 2007.

Bucs bits
The deadline to sign players chosen in this summer's First-Year Player Draft is midnight ET on Monday. The Pirates have so far signed 23 of 51 picks. President Frank Coonelly said on Sunday there is the potential of another one or two players signing but that the organization could also be done. ... On his radio show, Huntington again stated that the organization has no intention of moving third baseman Pedro Alvarez to Triple-A this year. Huntington said that Alvarez has a chance to be in the Majors before the end of 2010, but much of that will depend on how hard Alvarez works this offseason to continue to shed weight and get into better shape. ... Heading into Sunday, Alvarez led the Eastern League with a .440 batting average and 22 hits in August. ... Huntington also said to expect fewer callups this September than last year. He cited first baseman Jeff Clement as a likely addition to the big league club in September, primarily so Clement can work on his defense with infield instructor Perry Hill.
Pirates happy to return to PNC Park | pirates.com: News

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