With a victory this afternoon, Zach Duke, owner of a 9-10 record, could become the Pirates' first 10-game winner since 2007.
Big deal, right?
In the larger scope, a 10-game winner is nothing special: Major League Baseball produced 79 in 2008 alone, and there are 31 already this season.
In Pittsburgh, though, it represents quite the feat: Through these 16-plus seasons of losing, only 27 pitchers have achieved 10 wins, and only one -- Todd Ritchie in 1999 -- has achieved 15. Last year, Paul Maholm's 9-9 record led the staff.
Duke went 10-15 in 2006, which might explain his stance on becoming a 10-game winner.
"It would mean a little bit, I guess," he said yesterday. "Fifteen, obviously, would be a lot nicer. Every win means a little more, especially once you get into double-digits. More than anything, though, I'd like to have a winning record. That's what it's all about."
Ross Ohlendorf, 9-8, also has a chance to move up the double-digit ladder. Maholm is 6-6.
Duke and Ohlendorf each failed in his first attempt at 10.
Andrew McCutchen is among the fastest runners in Major League Baseball, but he has tried only 10 steals in 57 games, succeeding on nine.
Manager John Russell said yesterday that McCutchen has the green light.
"Teams are obviously paying a lot of attention to him," Russell said. "When Andrew gets on, they know he's very capable. He's seeing a lot of throws over, a lot of slide-steps. He wants to make sure he's got the right lead, a good jump, and he's trying to be smart about it. At some point, he'll be more aggressive."
With Donnie Veal out, the Pirates no longer have any left-handers in the bullpen. Russell has made clear Jesse Chavez will be his first choice against key left-handed batters late in games, but he added that at least two others -- Jose Ascanio and Evan Meek -- could see such duty, too.
"Ascanio has a changeup that can work against lefties, and Meek's progressing with his cut fastball and breaking pitch," Russell said. "Joel Hanrahan might be in there, too, with his stuff."
Russell also said the Pirates plan to look for left-handed help at some point: "Maybe this season, maybe before next season."
Third baseman Jarek Cunningham, one of the Pirates' most promising prospects, "should" be able to compete in the Florida Instructional League this fall after missing the entire season to knee surgery, director of player development Kyle Stark said yesterday.
Cunningham, 19, had the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee repaired in early March. Last year, he batted ..328 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 148 Gulf Coast League at-bats.
• The Pirates had been trying to acquire shortstop Ronny Cedeno for nearly a year, Russell said.
• The crowd of 38,593 last night, buoyed by the second SkyBlast event, marked the fourth sellout at PNC Park this season. The third and final SkyBlast is Sept. 26.
• Coach Rich Donnelly, on McCutchen's smooth turns on the basepaths: "If he were a race car, he'd be riding on two wheels."