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Pirates offense stalled by D-backs, rain

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- In Friday night's loss to the D-Backs, the Pirates pitched well but didn't hit enough to support it. On Saturday, they couldn't do either.

Pirates right-hander Joe Musgrove allowed five earned runs through four innings, while Zack Greinke limited the Bucs to two hits over six shutout frames in Pittsburgh's 7-2 loss at PNC Park. The defeat dropped the Pirates to four games below .500 for the first time this season.

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PITTSBURGH -- In Friday night's loss to the D-Backs, the Pirates pitched well but didn't hit enough to support it. On Saturday, they couldn't do either.

Pirates right-hander Joe Musgrove allowed five earned runs through four innings, while Zack Greinke limited the Bucs to two hits over six shutout frames in Pittsburgh's 7-2 loss at PNC Park. The defeat dropped the Pirates to four games below .500 for the first time this season.

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With two outs and Paul Goldschmidt on first base in the opening frame, David Peralta swung on the first pitch he saw from Musgrove and roped a triple down the first-base line. Sean Rodriguez then attempted to nab Goldschmidt at the plate, but his throw sailed into the Pirates' dugout and allowed Peralta to score.

The Pirates' deficit doubled In the third inning. Goldschmidt drew a five-pitch walk and advanced to second on a Jake Lamb infield single, before Peralta drove him in once more with a double to right. Two batters later, Chris Owings singled to center field to score Lamb.

In the fourth inning, Greinke bested Musgrove at the plate by lacing a double to left field and scoring on a Jon Jay double in the ensuing at-bat.

Right-hander Richard Rodriguez took over for the Pirates in the fifth following the second rain delay of the game. He pitched three innings, striking out five while allowing just one hit -- a Goldschmidt homer that led off the seventh inning.

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Dickerson activated, Frazier optioned to Triple-A

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates reinstated left fielder Corey Dickerson from the family medical emergency list on Saturday and optioned utility man Adam Frazier to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Dickerson has been away from the team since Wednesday to attend to an ailing family member. He returned in time for Saturday's 7-2 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park, playing left field and finishing 1-for-3 at the plate.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates reinstated left fielder Corey Dickerson from the family medical emergency list on Saturday and optioned utility man Adam Frazier to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Dickerson has been away from the team since Wednesday to attend to an ailing family member. He returned in time for Saturday's 7-2 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park, playing left field and finishing 1-for-3 at the plate.

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The Pirates called up Frazier on Wednesday to take Dickerson's spot on the roster. Frazier didn't start Thursday or Friday, but he came off the bench in both games and went 1-for-3 with a walk while playing second base.

Dickerson has been one of the Pirates' most valuable players this season, entering Saturday with a .302/.336/.453 slash line, five homers and 32 RBIs in 67 games. His outfield defense has been better than advertised, as the former Rays designated hitter ranks among the Major League leaders with six Outs Above Average, according to Statcast™.

Video: LAD@PIT: Dickerson makes a terrific sliding catch

While Dickerson has consistently hit for a high average this season, his power production has dropped off over the last month. Dickerson's last home run came on May 4.

Kuhl ready in relief

With Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault still down after extended outings the past two days, right-hander Chad Kuhl was available as a long reliever on Saturday, manager Clint Hurdle said. Kuhl didn't pitch, however, as Richard Rodriguez picked up three innings and Michael Feliz pitched the final two frames.

Kuhl threw only 53 pitches in a six-out, eight-run outing against the D-backs on Thursday. Saturday was his scheduled day to throw a bullpen session between starts, so he was prepared to pitch anyway. But Hurdle said using Kuhl for an extended outing on Saturday likely would have ruled him out for his scheduled start on Tuesday in New York.

"Kuhl was there, but if you use Kuhl, you're probably going to have to skip him his next start in that situation to be fair to him," Hurdle said. "That's not something we wanted to do. If the game got closer, it would have been more of an opportunity to move upon in Chad's case, but not when there's separation like there was today."

Kuhl did not find any evidence that he was tipping his pitches against the D-backs on Thursday, despite initial concerns that he may have been.

Around the horn
Austin Meadows made his first Major League start in the leadoff spot on Saturday afternoon, playing right field and batting first against D-backs right-hander Zack Greinke.

Josh Harrison, the Pirates' most frequently used leadoff man this season, was out of the lineup on Saturday for the first time since June 9. It was a scheduled day off, Hurdle said. In 11 games since his last day off, Harrison hit .222 with a .606 OPS. Sean Rodriguez, batting eighth, started at second base in Harrison's place and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

• Infielder Jung Ho Kang (left wrist discomfort) returned to the Triple-A Indianapolis lineup on Saturday after being sidelined for three days.

• Pirates starter Trevor Williams and his wife, Jackie, hosted local patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, along with their families on Saturday at PNC Park. The group took part in a meet-and-greet session with Williams -- and a few attendees played catch with Williams on the field -- before watching Saturday's game from a World Series suite.

Proceeds from Saturday's Pirates Charities 50/50 Raffle went toward Project 34, the nonprofit organization founded by Williams and inspired by former Arizona State teammate Cory Hahn, who now works in the D-backs' front office.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Corey Dickerson

Nova brilliant through 8, but Bucs fall in extras

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates couldn't have asked for much better pitching on Friday night. Ivan Nova was brilliant for eight innings. It took 13 innings for Pittsburgh to finally allow an earned run.

The night began with a masterful, fast-paced duel between Nova and left-hander Patrick Corbin. But the Bucs squandered one of their best pitching performances of the season as they struck out 17 times, managed only four hits and lost, 2-1, to the D-backs at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates couldn't have asked for much better pitching on Friday night. Ivan Nova was brilliant for eight innings. It took 13 innings for Pittsburgh to finally allow an earned run.

The night began with a masterful, fast-paced duel between Nova and left-hander Patrick Corbin. But the Bucs squandered one of their best pitching performances of the season as they struck out 17 times, managed only four hits and lost, 2-1, to the D-backs at PNC Park.

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The defeat dropped Pittsburgh three games below .500 for the second time this season.

"It's not easy to take, man. A game like this, we should be able to get it. We should be able to get a win," said Nova, who allowed only three hits and struck out eight over eight scoreless innings. "I did my part, trying to give my team a chance to win a game. We had some opportunities to win and we didn't win the game when we got the chance. They took it away from us."

With two outs and runners on first and second in the 11th inning, Ketel Marte tapped a ball back toward the mound. Catcher Elias Diaz scrambled in front of the plate and made a wild throw to first base, allowing Jake Lamb to score from second.

The Pirates immediately responded to keep the game going. With the bases loaded and one out, Starling Marte hit a potential double-play grounder to third base, but Lamb chose to throw home. Catcher Jeff Mathis dropped Lamb's errant throw, allowing Polanco to score the tying run. But David Freese struck out and Diaz grounded out, stranding the winning run 90 feet away.

Video: ARI@PIT: Polanco scores on error to tie game in 11th

Right-hander Tyler Glasnow worked a scoreless 12th and returned to pitch the 13th. He issued a leadoff walk to Jon Jay, who took second on a wild pitch and scored the winning run on Marte's single to center field. The Pirates went down in order in the bottom of the inning against left-hander T.J. McFarland.

"We created opportunities to put ourselves on the other side of the game. We didn't do it," manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's going to be nights where their pitching is going to get the best of you as a hitter. Good pitching is hard to hit. This team pitches pretty well over there."

While Nova cruised, Corbin dominated. The Arizona left-hander tied a career-high with 12 strikeouts, allowed only three singles and didn't walk anybody in seven innings. Corbin baffled the Pirates with a steady diet of fastballs and breaking balls. He threw 46 sliders, according to Statcast™, and the Bucs swung and missed on 21 of them.

Nova didn't have that kind of swing-and-miss stuff, but he was at his efficient best against a red-hot D-backs lineup that scored nine runs on Thursday night. The veteran right-hander needed only 90 pitches to complete eight innings for the first time since April 26.

"Ivan was awesome," Hurdle said. "This one was as good as any game we've seen him pitch. Back to what he does."

Video: ARI@PIT: Hurdle on Nova's 8-K outing in loss

Since coming off the disabled list, Nova has posted a 0.92 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings over three starts. On Friday, he pounded the strike zone with his fastball. Diaz called for 13 changeups that produced three swinging strikes. Nova's curveball, which went missing in his last start, returned to induce seven called strikes and three whiffs on the night.

On most nights, it would have been more than enough.

"It was not the case today," Nova said. "We missed that opportunity."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Thrown away: Just before Diaz made the errant throw that allowed the game's first run to score, the Pirates avoided another potential catastrophe on a comebacker. Reliever Edgar Santana fielded a grounder from David Peralta and turned to second base, looking to start an inning-ending double play. But he bobbled the ball and found himself with only one play: at the plate. Santana flipped the ball to Diaz in time for the catcher to tag out Paul Goldschmidt.

Video: ARI@PIT: Santana nabs Goldy at home after review

The next play, Hurdle said, is a "learning opportunity" for Diaz. Rather than forcing a throw to first, he might have been better off faking a throw and holding on to the ball. Instead, Diaz's throw sailed past first baseman Jose Osuna and into foul territory, allowing one run to score.

"Tough play. I tried to be aggressive with the ball," Diaz said. "I know the runner was Marte. He can run. That's why I tried to be aggressive with the play."

Video: ARI@PIT: Lamb scores on a throwing error in the 11th

SOUND SMART
Since Austin Meadows made his debut on May 18, the Pirates have lost 22 of 32 games. But Meadows is clearly not to blame for the Bucs' skid. The rookie outfielder went 2-for-5 on Friday, giving him a .343 average and a .958 OPS in 108 plate appearances.

Video: ARI@PIT: Meadows makes a slick sliding catch in left

HE SAID IT
"You never waste anything in this game when you go out and play. ... I don't feel like it was a wasted performance. If you asked Ivan if he wasted his night pitching, I think he'd probably have a different thought as well. … His job is to put us in a position to win. He did that." -- Hurdle, asked about "wasting" Nova's performance

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Jarrod Dyson dropped a bunt to lead off the eighth inning against Nova, and Osuna fielded it. The speedy Dyson raced to first so quickly that Osuna had little choice but to attempt to tag him. So Osuna left his feet and dove toward Dyson, who tried to dodge Osuna's tag. Dyson was initially ruled safe, but the Pirates challenged the call. The ruling was overturned after a one-minute, seven-second review. Rather than pitching with a stolen-base threat on first base, Nova was able to breeze through the rest of the inning on three more pitches.

Video: ARI@PIT: Osuna dives to tag Dyson, call overturned

UP NEXT
Right-hander Joe Musgrove will start against the D-backs on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Musgrove struggled last time out, allowing six runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Reds. Veteran righty Zack Greinke will start for Arizona.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Ivan Nova

Bucs place Cervelli on 7-day concussion DL

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has been shut down after being placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list before Friday's game against the D-backs at PNC Park.

Cervelli reported symptoms to the club's medical staff after Thursday night's 9-3 loss, director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said on Saturday. Cervelli had not reported any symptoms since returning to the field on June 13, Tomczyk said, noting that doctors described Cervelli's latest concussion as a "cumulative effect."

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PITTSBURGH -- Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has been shut down after being placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list before Friday's game against the D-backs at PNC Park.

Cervelli reported symptoms to the club's medical staff after Thursday night's 9-3 loss, director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said on Saturday. Cervelli had not reported any symptoms since returning to the field on June 13, Tomczyk said, noting that doctors described Cervelli's latest concussion as a "cumulative effect."

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Cervelli was examined by an independent neurologist, who recommended at least seven days' rest. The Pirates medical staff will continue to monitor Cervelli, who will also see the independent neurologist for further follow-up exams.

Cervelli took a foul tip off the left side of his facemask on June 9 at Wrigley Field, exited the game early and did not return to the field until June 13. During that time, Cervelli went through extensive testing -- under protocol mandated by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association -- to ensure he was healthy enough to play. Cervelli played in six full games after returning from his initial injury, which was officially described as a bruised jaw.

This is Cervelli's fourth concussive event since 2011, Tomczyk said. He was placed on the seven-day DL twice last June. He also missed time in September 2011 due to a concussion.

"I think what's most important here is the cognition of Francisco to recognize these new symptoms, for him not to play through these new symptoms, to make us aware of them, the doctors aware of them, to ensure his short and long-term health," Tomczyk said.

Aside from rookie outfielder Austin Meadows, Cervelli has been the Pirates' most productive hitter this season. The 32-year-old is hitting .257/.390/.486 with a career-high nine home runs in 55 games.

Video: LAD@PIT: Cervelli delivers pinch-hit solo home run

Elias Diaz, who started Friday, will take over as the starting catcher while Cervelli is out. Diaz is also enjoying a strong offensive campaign, slashing .286/.336/.469 with five homers in his first 37 games. The Pirates are confident that Diaz can handle everyday duties in Cervelli's absence.

"Just because of the repetition and experience. He's gone through it before, having to be a No. 2, now be a No. 1 for however long, to be the guy," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're prepared for our future through our past, if we've paid attention. He's paid attention."

Video: CIN@PIT: Diaz leads off bottom 4th with a solo homer

When the Pirates put Cervelli on the disabled list, they called up catcher Jacob Stallings from Triple-A Indianapolis to back up Diaz.

Stallings joined the Pirates on Friday and made the last out of their 2-1 loss to the D-backs as a pinch-hitter in the 13th inning.

This is Stallings' second stint with the Pirates this season, but he did not appear in a game during his first call-up from June 10 through Monday. Highly regarded for his defense behind the plate, Stallings has hit .289 with a .731 OPS in 42 Triple-A games this season.

"Jacob's worked very hard on an offensive approach, a two-strike approach," Hurdle said. "To his credit, he believed there was a better hitter in himself than maybe some other people did. He's worked very hard at becoming a better hitter."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Francisco Cervelli, Jacob Stallings

Frazier hopes adjustments pay off at plate

Utility man noticed mechanical flaw in swing; Musgrove consults with Taillon; Bucs ink more Draft picks
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates optioned Adam Frazier to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 10, part of their decision was out of Frazier's control. They needed to add another catcher, and Frazier had Minor League options remaining, while other reserves didn't.

Frazier understood that. He also knew he could have made their decision harder.

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PITTSBURGH -- When the Pirates optioned Adam Frazier to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 10, part of their decision was out of Frazier's control. They needed to add another catcher, and Frazier had Minor League options remaining, while other reserves didn't.

Frazier understood that. He also knew he could have made their decision harder.

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"I was kind of the odd man out, so it had to happen," Frazier said on Friday. "At the same time, I could be playing better, too, to make it not happen."

Frazier rejoined the Pirates on Wednesday, when left fielder Corey Dickerson went on family medical emergency leave. During his brief stint in Triple-A, Frazier identified a mechanical flaw that may have been holding him back at the plate. His swing was longer and his timing was off, he said, because his hands were much higher than they had been in the past.

Frazier got some help from his father, Tim, who sent a picture of Frazier facing Braves starter Julio Teheran last season. Frazier noticed his hands were much lower in the picture than they were in the video he was watching at the time.

"I was like, 'Wait a minute. There's a big difference there,'" Frazier said. "So the past three or four days, it kind of clicked, and the swing feels easier and the bat path feels a lot freer."

After hitting .283 with a .750 OPS in 2016-17, Frazier entered Friday batting just .239 with a .673 OPS in the Majors. He was relieved to isolate the sources of his struggles, though he obviously would have preferred to do so earlier.

"Felt like I was seeing the ball fine, that kind of thing. It's not like I was chasing a bunch of pitches or anything like that," Frazier said. "It's just, I wasn't hitting the ones that pitchers were giving me to hit, so hopefully I can change that now.

"Still got a lot of season left, so try to make the most of it."

Draft signings
The Pirates on Friday signed second-round Draft pick Braxton Ashcraft, a right-hander from Robinson (Texas) High School, and third-round pick Connor Kaiser, an infielder from Vanderbilt University. Ashcraft received a $1.825 million bonus, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis, more than the $1,382,400 slot value assigned to the 51st overall pick. Kaiser signed for $625,000, according to Callis, less than his pick's slot value of $673,200.

Ashcraft will begin his professional career in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, while Kaiser was assigned to short-season Class A Short-Season West Virginia.

Pittsburgh signed 29 of their 41 Draft picks. They also signed four non-drafted free agents -- infielders Pat Dorrian, Matt Morrow and Kyle Mottice and outfielder Steven Kraft -- and assigned them to the GCL Pirates.

Dealing with the heat
Right-hander Joe Musgrove, who will start Saturday's game, gave up six runs over 4 1/3 innings and experienced a dip in velocity in a loss to the Reds on Sunday afternoon. Afterward, Musgrove said he felt "drained" by the afternoon heat because it had been so long since his last start in a day game.

Musgrove sought out Jameson Taillon, who has pitched well in day games throughout his career. Musgrove said he learned to get proper sleep two nights before his start, make hydration a priority and exert less energy than usual in the hours before he takes the mound.

"The last outing will be as much of a lesson for me as anything, just getting the experience of pitching like that again," Musgrove said.

Musgrove last faced the D-backs on June 11, when he intentionally plunked Chris Owings at Chase Field. That decision earned him a $1,000 fine from Major League Baseball, as first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Project 34 Day
Trevor Williams and his wife, Jackie, will host about 60 people suffering from spinal cord injuries, along with their families, before the Pirates' 4:05 p.m. ET game against the D-backs on Saturday at PNC Park. The group will watch batting practice on the field and the game from one of the Pirates' World Series suites.

The Pirates Charities 50/50 raffle will also benefit Project 34, a nonprofit organization founded by Williams and inspired by Cory Hahn, Williams' former roommate and teammate at Arizona State University. Hahn, now the D-backs' coordinator of pro scouting, was paralyzed from the chest down after sliding headfirst into second base in 2011.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Adam Frazier, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams

Kuhl, Pirates stumble early in loss to D-backs

Pirates starter has roughest outing of season, giving up eight runs
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- As Alex Avila rounded the bases after swatting a two-run homer in the third inning, Chad Kuhl stood in front of the mound and stared down at the infield grass. When he finally looked up, all he could do was shake his head.

For six weeks, Kuhl was the Pirates' best starter. But that encouraging stretch came to an abrupt end on Thursday night. Kuhl gave up eight runs on eight hits while recording only six outs in the Pirates' 9-3 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- As Alex Avila rounded the bases after swatting a two-run homer in the third inning, Chad Kuhl stood in front of the mound and stared down at the infield grass. When he finally looked up, all he could do was shake his head.

For six weeks, Kuhl was the Pirates' best starter. But that encouraging stretch came to an abrupt end on Thursday night. Kuhl gave up eight runs on eight hits while recording only six outs in the Pirates' 9-3 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park.

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"Especially after a string of really good starts, this one kind of just went sour," Kuhl said. "It was just frustration."

Kuhl posted a 2.89 ERA over his previous eight starts, and the Pirates won five of those games. He allowed only eight earned runs in 46 2/3 innings over his last five starts, but he matched that total before he could record an out in the third inning on Thursday.

"Just one of those nights where it felt like, no matter what, I was getting hit hard," Kuhl said.

Video: ARI@PIT: Cervelli drives in Marte with an RBI single

Right-hander Zack Godley kept the Pirates off the board for three innings before Starling Marte walked and scored on Francisco Cervelli's single to right in the fourth. Marte doubled home Austin Meadows, who went 3-for-4 on the night, and scored on Colin Moran's sacrifice fly in the sixth.

"We started doing a little better job with [Godley] late, but there wasn't enough there," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We needed a couple swings with some men on base like they got early."

Much of Kuhl's recent improvement was due to his performance against left-handed hitters, as he held them to a .178 average over his last eight starts. But Arizona's lefties finished 6-for-10 with two homers against Kuhl on Thursday. It was the Pirates' worst start of the season and Kuhl's roughest outing since he allowed nine runs while recording five outs against the Cubs on April 24, 2017.

"What I saw was [Kuhl] behind in counts, elevated, and the execution and location was a little more middle and up than anything else," Hurdle said. "Left-handers put the barrel on him."

Arizona put 12 balls in play against Kuhl, and seven of them were hit harder than 95 mph, according to Statcast™. The D-backs did most of their damage against Kuhl's fastball, but Ketel Marte clubbed a down-and-in curveball into the right-field seats for a two-run homer in the first inning and Jon Jay pulled a slider to right field for a two-run double in the second.

Video: ARI@PIT: Marte cranks a 2-run homer to right field

"Pitches that I haven't been hurt on, I got hurt on tonight," Kuhl said. "Just felt like everything was getting hit."

Though he admitted it was "not ideal" to warm up a few times before Wednesday's rainout, Kuhl wouldn't blame his unusual schedule for the rough outing. He didn't feel like his delivery was off-kilter, either. But he did wonder if he had been tipping his pitches.

In a few previous starts, Kuhl's breathing patterns made it obvious when he was going to throw a fastball or an offspeed pitch. He cleaned up that issue, he said, but he planned to check if it resurfaced on Thursday.

Kuhl fell behind seven of the 15 hitters he faced. Two others put Kuhl's first pitch in play -- Daniel Descalso's sacrifice fly in the first inning and the Avila two-run homer on Kuhl's final pitch of the night, a fastball left over the middle of the plate.

"No sense in moping around. It's already over," Kuhl said. "When I get here tomorrow, we'll go through it, and we'll check it out."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rough start: Kuhl never had a chance to get into a rhythm on the mound. Jay hit a leadoff double to left. A walk and a forceout later, Descalso smacked a sacrifice fly to right field. Ketel Marte followed with a two-run homer, giving Arizona a three-run lead in the first inning. It didn't get any better in the second inning, when Nick Ahmed laced a leadoff double to left. Jarrod Dyson singled and Jay -- a longtime Pirates nemesis -- ripped a two-run double to right. Paul Goldschmidt followed by beating the Bucs' shift with an RBI single to right.

"I just don't think the ball was coming out as well as it has, for whatever reason," Kuhl said. "Whatever reason that may be, I just felt like tonight was a little different. They hammered the balls over the plate."

Video: ARI@PIT: Marte plates Meadows with an RBI double

SOUND SMART
Starling Marte ripped an RBI double to left-center in the sixth inning, his 800th career hit and 300th RBI. Of those 800 hits, 392 have come at PNC Park. Marte ranks behind only Andrew McCutchen (749), Jack Wilson (612), Neil Walker (432) and Freddy Sanchez (411) on PNC Park's all-time hits list.

HE SAID IT
"The sooner you can get over them, the better. As [horrible], maybe, as that sounds. The sooner you can flush it and get rid of it, the better. There's no sense moping around or dwelling on anything. I'm going to be out there in five days, and I have to go get big league hitters out. The sooner you can flush it, the better." -- Kuhl, on bouncing back from Thursday's start

UP NEXT
Right-hander Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates against the D-backs at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Nova is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings in two starts since coming off the DL on June 10. Lefty Patrick Corbin will start for Arizona at PNC Park.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Chad Kuhl

Hurdle talks Pirates' offensive philosophy

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- This weekend at PNC Park is shaping up to be a study in differing offensive approaches. As the league trends toward booms and busts, home runs and strikeouts, the Pirates have maintained their belief in the value of putting the ball in play.

Thirty-four percent of all plate appearances in Major League Baseball this season have ended in one of three "true" outcomes: a home run, walk or strikeout. The D-backs, Pittsburgh's opponent this weekend, fall on one side of that average, with homers, walks and strikeouts accounting for 37.8 percent of their plate appearances this season entering Thursday's series opener.

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PITTSBURGH -- This weekend at PNC Park is shaping up to be a study in differing offensive approaches. As the league trends toward booms and busts, home runs and strikeouts, the Pirates have maintained their belief in the value of putting the ball in play.

Thirty-four percent of all plate appearances in Major League Baseball this season have ended in one of three "true" outcomes: a home run, walk or strikeout. The D-backs, Pittsburgh's opponent this weekend, fall on one side of that average, with homers, walks and strikeouts accounting for 37.8 percent of their plate appearances this season entering Thursday's series opener.

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On the other end of the spectrum are the Pirates, who have homered, walked or struck out in 30.7 percent of their plate appearances. The Bucs began Thursday with the Majors' second-lowest strikeout rate, a roughly league-average walk rate (17th, 237) and 75 home runs in 73 games (20th). They are something of a rarity in the National League as one of only four teams with more hits than strikeouts.

"The game's running a course, I believe, and there's reasons why it's running this course. There's been different importance put on different things," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We seem to be an outlier from an offensive standpoint of everything they're talking about."

As an organization, the Pirates still emphasize the importance of putting pressure on the opposing defense by making contact. Hurdle called Corey Dickerson the "poster child" for that approach, as the left fielder frequently chokes up with two strikes to avoid strikeouts.

Pittsburgh has four players (Elias Diaz, Dickerson, Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison) with strikeout rates below 15 percent this season, well below this year's league-average strikeout rate of 22.4 percent. The D-backs were one of four teams that began Thursday with strikeouts in at least a quarter of their plate appearances.

"It's still about scoring runs at the end of the day," Hurdle said. "I can understand why the commentary or the narrative is what it is. There's a lot of downtime."

Perhaps more downtime in the field, in fact, than ever before. Hurdle said the Pirates ran a study for their players that found the average three-hour game includes less than 18 minutes of actual action.

"But that doesn't scare me off either. I love the game," Hurdle said. "I'm just finding different things I love about the game, different things I'm willing to fight for in the game and other things I need to let go of because they're going. Maybe they'll come back. I think it's interesting."

Around the horn
• Rather than reshuffle their rotation after Wednesday's rainout, the Pirates pushed all of their starters back a day to keep them in line.

"This group right here has shown the ability to be flexible, to be resilient and also shown some benefits from an extra day [of rest] every now and then," Hurdle said.

• With Dickerson on the family medical emergency list, Austin Meadows got the start in left field on Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a run in a 9-3 loss to the D-backs.

Jung Ho Kang (left wrist discomfort) remained out of the Triple-A Indianapolis lineup on Thursday night after being scratched before Wednesday's game.

• Outfielder Travis Swaggerty, Pittsburgh's first-round pick in the MLB Draft, made his professional debut on Thursday night for short-season Class A West Virginia.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The most pressing question facing Pirates

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

In a bunched-up National League Central, a crossroads is coming.

Ahead sits a crucial six-week stretch that will push the season past its halfway point and bring it to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Buyers and sellers will be defined. Pretenders and contenders will separate. And in a division where four teams still have a legitimate chance to earn a postseason berth, key decisions will surface.

In a bunched-up National League Central, a crossroads is coming.

Ahead sits a crucial six-week stretch that will push the season past its halfway point and bring it to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Buyers and sellers will be defined. Pretenders and contenders will separate. And in a division where four teams still have a legitimate chance to earn a postseason berth, key decisions will surface.

Here is a look at a few of them, as MLB.com has identified one pressing question that each NL Central club will seek to answer before the end of next month:

BREWERS
The question: Could Jimmy Nelson be the boost Milwaukee's rotation needs?

After watching the Brewers swing a deal for Christian Yelich in January, most everyone expected the club to follow up by adding a front-line starter. That splash never came, and it leaves Milwaukee in a spot where it again must assess whether its starting depth is sufficient.

Thus far, it's been Jhoulys Chacin and Junior Guerra anchoring a rotation that has been around league average in most statistical categories. Getting Zach Davies off the disabled list should provide a boost, and the Brewers see potential in rookie Freddy Peralta. But they still lack an ace.

Nelson isn't exactly that, but if he can avoid another setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, Milwaukee may be more content to stand pat with what it has. Nelson's rehab hit some snags this spring, and he hasn't yet resumed throwing off the mound. The Brewers can use the next few weeks to asses Nelson's progress and better project the potential impact he may have in the second half. If it isn't deemed to be enough, their search for rotation help may again heat up.

CARDINALS
The question: Does St. Louis have enough on offense?

Sound familiar? It should, as this is the same question the Cardinals were trying to address months ago. Marcell Ozuna was supposed to play a big role in answering it, but even as he's come alive this month, the pieces around him haven't exactly fallen into place.

Video: Marcell Ozuna is named the NL Player of the Week

The club ranks in the league's bottom half in runs scored, and the offense leans too heavily on the long ball. Dramatic first-half struggles from Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong have complicated lineup construction. Injuries to Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong haven't helped, either.

But Molina is back, DeJong is on the mend and others (namely Matt Carpenter and Ozuna) have recently provided production more consistent with their career norms. With middle-of-the-order bats like Manny Machado and Mike Moustakas expected to be dangled as trade options in the coming weeks, St. Louis will have to assess whether it will gamble on this current unit coming around, or if the club is willing to part with prized prospects to acquire another big bat. The latter would be a particularly bold move for a team that is often hesitant to give up long-term assets for a short-term fix. The Cards would be more inclined to do so if they can first close the gap with the Brewers and Cubs.

CUBS
The question: What will Yu do?

Yu Darvish was supposed to be the missing piece the defending division champs needed, but he has spent as much time on the DL as he has the active roster this year. First, it was the flu. Now, it's a right triceps injury.

Yes, Mike Montgomery has done an exceptional job filling in during Darvish's absence. But there's a reason the Cubs committed $126 million to Darvish this offseason. Getting him back -- and the Cubs are optimistic they will before the All-Star break -- would give Chicago even more flexibility in how it can deploy its arms. The Cubs could give Tyler Chatwood time to pause and address his command troubles. They could consider temporarily transitioning to a six-man rotation. Or (and this seems likeliest), they could make one of baseball's best bullpens even more formidable by adding Montgomery to it.

Video: LAD@CHC: Montgomery tosses 6 innings of 1-run ball

For a club with few glaring needs, sliding Darvish back into the rotation may be the biggest move the Cubs make in July. Of course, they'll only get a boost if he's better than his first impression and can stay healthy. Darvish has a 4.95 ERA, three quality starts and a 1.425 WHIP in eight games. The Cubs need better.

PIRATES
The question: Will the Bucs be buyers or sellers?

In dealing away Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole last offseason, the Pirates cast themselves into what most folks thought would be another rebuild. Then they raced out to an 11-4 start to the season, forcing many to reevaluate whether they had undersold Pittsburgh's potential. That answer is still unclear.

The Bucs have been a streaky team so far, and not for the better as of late. A recent 9-19 stretch -- one complicated by a leaky bullpen -- has dropped the Pirates into fourth place in the division. If they're still treading around or below the .500 mark at this time next month, Pittsburgh will likely listen to trade offers on veteran players nearing free agency. That may put Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, David Freese and/or Francisco Cervelli on the move. But if the next six weeks go more like the first few did, general manager Neal Huntington may be inclined to hold onto his assets and even add a complementary piece or two.

So what has to go right for the Pirates to push themselves into buying consideration? Their inexperienced rotation will need to hold up. The Bucs' young relievers will need to step up. Their lineup will need to show that its early production was no fluke. And Pittsburgh would probably need to leapfrog at least one team ahead of it in the division.

REDS
The question: Will Cincinnati's carousel of outfielders finally prove fruitful?

There was sound logic behind the Reds' decision to enter the season rotating four outfielders through three outfield spots. They believed that such a system would help keep everyone fresh and maximize the varying skill sets offered by Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Jesse Winker. Instead, the club has been handcuffed by inconsistent production from all four. Currently, Cincinnati ranks last in the NL in outfielder batting average and slugging percentage.

The biggest conundrum may be what to do with Hamilton. His elite defensive ability will always be an asset, but he's not been on base enough to take advantage of his speed. Hamilton is just a little over a year away from free agency, and if he's not deemed part of the Reds' long-term plan, the club may reach a point where they quit prioritizing his playing time.

Video: CIN@PIT: Hamilton lays out for tremendous catch

The other possibility is that the club could try to deal the center fielder. Duvall could also be on the trade block. What sort of value either might have on the market will be shaped whether either can find his way out of a first-half funk.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals

Dickerson on family medical leave; Frazier up

Kang sidelined with discomfort in left wrist
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates placed left fielder Corey Dickerson on the family medical emergency list on Wednesday and recalled super-utility man Adam Frazier from Triple-A Indianapolis.

The family medical emergency list can only be used in the case of a death or medical emergency in the player's immediate family. Players must remain on the family medical emergency list for at least three days and no more than seven, so Dickerson will be away from the team until at least Saturday.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates placed left fielder Corey Dickerson on the family medical emergency list on Wednesday and recalled super-utility man Adam Frazier from Triple-A Indianapolis.

The family medical emergency list can only be used in the case of a death or medical emergency in the player's immediate family. Players must remain on the family medical emergency list for at least three days and no more than seven, so Dickerson will be away from the team until at least Saturday.

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Dickerson, 29, has put together another strong first half in his first season with the Pirates, slashing .302/.336/.453 with five homers and 32 RBIs. He ranks 11th among outfielders in the most recent round of National League All-Star balloting.

VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot

Since Austin Meadows' emergence, Dickerson has been playing regularly as part of Pittsburgh's four-man outfield plan. Meadows figures to join center fielder Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the outfield while Dickerson is away, but Sean Rodriguez was scheduled to start in left with Meadows in right against Brewers left-hander Brent Suter before Wednesday's game was postponed.

Frazier was vying for the starting left-field job this spring before Pittsburgh acquired Dickerson via trade from Tampa Bay in mid-February. The Pirates optioned Frazier to Indianapolis on June 10, in part because he had Minor League options but also to give him regular playing time in Triple-A after spending more than two months in a reserve role.

Frazier hit .283/.347/.402 during his first two seasons with the Pirates, but those numbers dropped to .237/.318/.356 in 152 plate appearances over 56 games in the Majors this year. Most of Frazier's playing time came at second base while Josh Harrison was on the disabled list, but he has also played all three outfield spots this season.

"It's a guy we know. It's a guy that's played at this level," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The hits weren't there. The battle in the box was getting better. He was fielding his position very well. He was showing up. He was getting reps. We've got right-handed bats. We wanted to add a left-handed bat and another infielder. He's a pretty good fit for those two criteria."

Kang scratched in Indy
Infielder Jung Ho Kang was removed from the Triple-A Indianapolis lineup on Wednesday afternoon. That prompted some speculation, fueled by a suggestive Twitter post from the Indianapolis club, that he might be headed to Pittsburgh. He is not.

Kang was scratched on Wednesday due to left wrist discomfort, Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. Kang reported the injury before Wednesday's game but did not identify the cause, Tomczyk said, and the athletic trainer in Indianapolis identified that Kang "most likely" needed to see a doctor.

After a slow start in Indianapolis, Kang recorded six hits in his last three games. He is day to day.

Trainer's room
• Left-hander Enny Romero (shoulder impingement) had his rehab assignment transferred from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. He pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout in Indianapolis' 5-3 win on Wednesday.

• Right-hander A.J. Schugel (shoulder discomfort) has resumed playing catch, Tomczyk said. After being sidelined early in Spring Training, Schugel made eight appearances during a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Bradenton and Indianapolis then was shut down in early May.

• Right-hander Nick Burdi (Tommy John surgery last year) continues to pitch simulated games in Bradenton, Fla. The Pirates picked Burdi, a 25-year-old reliever who hasn't pitched above Double-A, in the Rule 5 Draft last December. He must spend 90 days on their active roster between this season and next year before his Rule 5 restrictions are removed.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Corey Dickerson

Pirates will host DH vs. Brewers on July 14

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers will make up Wednesday night's postponed game on Saturday, July 14, as part of a traditional doubleheader.

The first game will begin at 12:35 p.m. ET, with the second game slated to begin at 4:05 p.m. or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first game, whichever is later.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers will make up Wednesday night's postponed game on Saturday, July 14, as part of a traditional doubleheader.

The first game will begin at 12:35 p.m. ET, with the second game slated to begin at 4:05 p.m. or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first game, whichever is later.

For more information on the club's ticket exchange policy, visit pirates.com/raincheck.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Keller spins fourth straight quality start

MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Wednesday.

The least-known prospect acquired by the Marlins in the January blockbuster trade that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, Jordan Yamamoto is doing his best to shed that distinction this season in the Florida State League.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Wednesday.

The least-known prospect acquired by the Marlins in the January blockbuster trade that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, Jordan Yamamoto is doing his best to shed that distinction this season in the Florida State League.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Yamamoto, Miami's No. 20 prospect, set a career high with 13 strikeouts and allowed just two hits, both singles, over seven scoreless innings as Class A Advanced Jupiter blanked Florida, 2-0. He did not issue a walk in the outing, ultimately facing two over the minimum and throwing 64 of 89 pitches for strikes.

Dealt to Miami during the offseason, along with outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison and second baseman Isan Diaz, Yamamoto began the season on the disabled list with a right shoulder impingement but has been on a roll since making his Marlins organizational debut on May 27. The 22-year-old right-hander is 3-0 in five starts, with a 1.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 33-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 2/3 innings.

Selected by Milwaukee in the 12th round of the 2014 Draft out of the Hawaii prep ranks, Yamamoto broke out in earnest last year, when he logged 111 innings for Class A Advanced Carolina -- his second straight campaign with at least 100 innings pitched after working a career-high 134 1/3 frames in 2016 -- struck out 113 and sported a 2.51 ERA that topped Carolina League pitchers reaching 100 innings.

Yamamoto was especially good down the stretch, too, as he allowed just one earned run over his final five starts and 33 innings -- a trend that has followed the young right-hander into 2018.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Wednesday

No. 12 overall prospect Mitch Keller (Pirates' No. 1) turned in his fourth straight quality start as he pitched Double-A Altoona past Richmond in Game 1 of a doubleheader to record his eighth win in 13 starts. The 22-year-old righty gave up one unearned run on four hits and one walk while striking out four and racking up 10 ground-ball outs. He's now completed at least six innings in seven straight starts, during which he's 5-0. Overall, Keller ranks among the Eastern League leaders with his eight wins (tied, first), a 3.00 ERA (seventh) and 78 1/3 innings pitched (fourth).

• No. 43 overall prospect Ian Anderson (Braves' No. 5) was outdueled by Yamamoto, but still impressed plenty by tossing six innings of two-run ball with a season-best eight strikeouts in a quality start for Class A Advanced Florida. Anderson permitted seven hits (six singles) and one walk and flooded the strike zone with 63 of his 92 offerings. The 20-year-old righty sports a 3.51 ERA through 13 starts on the season, with 70 strikeouts and just two home runs allowed in 59 innings.

• No. 57 overall prospect Shane Baz (Pirates' No. 3) worked a career-high five scoreless innings to earn the win in his season debut for Rookie-level Bristol. The 2017 first-rounder (No. 12 overall) gave up four hits while compiling one strikeout and three walks in the outing. Baz, a 19-year-old righty, recorded eight ground-ball outs and threw 45 of his 80 pitches for strikes. Outfielder Conner Uselton (No. 16), selected with the No. 72 pick in the '17 Draft, went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

• No. 92 overall prospect Sean Murphy (A's No. 6) went 3-for-3 and reached base in all five of his plate appearances in Double-A Midland's loss to Frisco. Two of those hits were doubles, giving Murphy a Texas League-leading 24 two-baggers on the season, and he also reached twice via walks and scored two runs. The 23-year-old is proving this season that he's one of the Minor's top catching prospects, as the performance gives Murphy a .315/.367/.539 batting line with 33 extra-base hits through 56 games.

Blue Jays No. 7 prospect Eric Pardinho took the loss but impressed in his professional debut, tossing four innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and seven ground-ball outs for Rookie-level Bluefield. The 17-year-old right-hander threw 39 of his 65 pitches for strikes in the outing, allowing two hits and two walks. Signed for $1.4 million out of Brazil at the outset of the 2017-18 international period, Pardinho boasts a three-pitch mix that includes a plus fastball-curveball pairing and a promising changeup. That mature arsenal, along with his advanced feel for using it, is why Toronto felt comfortable jumping him straight to the Appalachian League for his Minor League debut.

Dodgers No. 24 prospect Drew Jackson hit a pair of two-run homers as he powered Double-A Tulsa past Springfield, 7-1, with his first career multi-homer game. The 24-year-old middle infielder has gone deep seven times in 54 games this year after homering just once in 29 Double-A contests in 2017.Will Smith (No. 8) also homered in the victory, his eighth this season. Both players finished 2-for-4 and scored two runs.

Watch: Jackson homers twice

Padres No. 11 prospect Jacob Nix was a tough-luck loser despite tossing seven innings of one-run ball with a season-best eight strikeouts for Double-A San Antonio in a 1-0 loss against Corpus Christi. The 22-year-old right-hander -- making his fifth start of 2018 after beginning the season on the disabled list -- allowed four hits, did not issue a walk and induced eight ground-ball outs. He's pitched to a 1.27 ERA and 0.71 WHIP, with 20 strikeouts, six walks and a .147 BAA, in 28 1/3 innings.

Pirates No. 7 prospect Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer (No. 8) combined for five hits and four RBIs in Triple-A Indianapolis' 5-3 win over Norfolk. Newman paced the offense out of the leadoff spot by going 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. It was his second three-hit performance during his seven-game hitting streak. Kramer, meanwhile, finished the game 2-for-4 after hitting his 16th double and a two-run homer, his 11th of the season and third in the last six games.

Pirates No. 11 prospect Luis Escobar posted six scoreless innings of two-hit ball in Class A Advanced Bradenton's 9-1 win over Clearwater. The 22-year-old righty issued two walks and struck out six while finding the strike zone with 51 of his 77 pitches. The outing was a step back in the right direction for Escobar after he entered the day having allowed nine earned runs and eight walks in eight innings between his previous two starts.

Escobar's sixth strikeout

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Marte homers, but Bucs' rally vs. Crew falls short

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- On Tuesday, for the second night in a row, the Pirates excelled against the Brewers' dominant bullpen. This time, however, the late offensive surge wasn't enough as Pittsburgh lost to Milwaukee, 3-2, at PNC Park. The defeat dropped the Pirates back below .500 on the season.

"We've done this before," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We stay in the game. We fight. We scratch. We claw. We got close again. We had a couple push innings where maybe there could have been more there for us, but we weren't able to capitalize on them."

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PITTSBURGH -- On Tuesday, for the second night in a row, the Pirates excelled against the Brewers' dominant bullpen. This time, however, the late offensive surge wasn't enough as Pittsburgh lost to Milwaukee, 3-2, at PNC Park. The defeat dropped the Pirates back below .500 on the season.

"We've done this before," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We stay in the game. We fight. We scratch. We claw. We got close again. We had a couple push innings where maybe there could have been more there for us, but we weren't able to capitalize on them."

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The Pirates' bats were stifled by Brewers rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta, who recorded seven strikeouts while allowing just two hits over six scoreless innings. When Milwaukee called upon its bullpen in the seventh, though, Pittsburgh's offense came to life.

Video: MIL@PIT: Hurdle on Taillon's outing in 3-2 loss

With the Bucs trailing by three, Josh Bell won an 11-pitch battle against southpaw Dan Jennings by drawing a two-out walk. In the ensuing at-bat, he advanced to third on a Gregory Polanco single. Jennings was then replaced by right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who subsequently surrendered a double to Jordy Mercer that scored Bell.

"I'll definitely take a walk in that scenario and come around and score," Bell said. "It's awesome. Every time I'll take a walk; it doesn't matter."

Video: MIL@PIT: Mercer belts an RBI double to left-center

Austin Meadows pinch-hit with two outs and Polanco and Mercer in scoring position, but he proceeded to strike out to end the inning. Starling Marte -- who earlier lined out and flied out on a pair of balls hit over 95 mph, per Statcast™ -- continued to make things interesting for the Pirates in the eighth. He connected on the first pitch he saw and launched a two-out, 394-foot blast to center field to cut their deficit to one run.

"He's letting the ball travel. He's getting the barrel to the ball," Hurdle said. "I think he showed you the difference when it catches the sweet spot. He hit the two balls well, but he caught the last one. Really strong swing. He's up there fighting