Key dates in 2007 for the Pirates

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April 2:

The 121st season for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club takes off in Houston, and the task will be intimidating: The Pirates are 11-42 at Minute Maid Park, have won just two of their past eight openers and, oh, yeah, will be facing Roy Oswalt.

April 9: No break for the home opener, either. World Series champion St. Louis hits town, and that usually means Albert Pujols hits the ball very far. He has 19 career home runs at PNC Park, or one every 9.6 at-bats.

April 13-15: Barry Bonds enters the season needing 22 home runs to pass Hank Aaron. Surely, he will get plenty of encouragement from the folks in PNC Park's left-field bleachers.

May 11-13: Will the PNC Park entertainment folks blast "Here comes the boom!" when Mike Gonzalez emerges from the bullpen for Atlanta in the ninth inning? Probably not. But there might be a firework or two shot off if Adam LaRoche goes deep against his former team.

June 8-10: Visiting Yankee Stadium? Again? Does George Steinbrenner really benefit from the Pirates coming to town? Or might not the reverse make more sense? Rest easy: Word is the Yankees will head to Pittsburgh in 2008 for the first time since ... oh, 3:36 p.m. on Oct. 13, 1960.

June 12-16: More interleague on tap, this at home with the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox visiting.

June 19-28: Further proof that the schedule-maker is the enemy comes in the form of a nine-game road trip that touches three of the nation's four corners: Seattle, Anaheim and Miami. The interleague series with the Mariners will represent the Pirates' first visit to the Pacific Northwest.

Aug. 16-18: The Pirates' most popular promotion, SkyBlast, encompasses three nights and features Styx, Smash Mouth and the PovertyNeck Hillbillies. If only Masumi Kuwata were pitching in Pittsburgh for the Styx show, "Mr. Roboto" could take on a whole new meaning.

Aug. 24-Sept. 16: In the always unlikely event that the Pirates are in contention at this late juncture, this 22-game stretch features nothing but Central Division opponents.

Sept. 30: The schedule wraps up the way it started at home, with the Cardinals in town. Will it wind up with a 15th consecutive losing record?


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