Pirates notebook: Situational hitting goes flat again

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CHICAGO -- Never mind the eight runners left on base or the Pirates' 1-for-13 mark with runners in scoring position Wednesday afternoon. Manager Clint Hurdle would have settled for some situational hitting.

"We make three good outs, it's a 4-4 game going into the ninth, just by getting outs with runners at third base and less than two outs," Hurdle said after the Pirates' 4-2 loss against the Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates had a man at third base with less than two outs in the fourth, sixth and ninth innings. Pedro Alvarez reached third on a three-base error in the fourth. The next batter, Tony Sanchez, popped out. Clint Barmes lined into a double play as Alvarez was doubled off.

In the sixth, Justin Morneau reached third with one out after a double and a ground ball. Alvarez grounded out to first, and Sanchez struck out looking to end the inning.

Jose Tabata reached third in the ninth after an RBI triple, but pinch-hitter Marlon Byrd struck out.

"That's been one of the challenges throughout the season," Hurdle said. "We've got to find a way to cash in on those situations."

Starling Marte did his part to move into scoring position Wednesday. He singled in his first two plate appearances and was hit by a pitch in his third. Each time, he stole second, bringing his stolen-base total to 40 this season. That ranked third in the National League behind Jean Segura and Eric Young Jr. Marte also became the first Pirates player to steal 40 bases since Tony Womack did so in 1998.

"It was a good day for him on the bases," Hurdle said. "Some opportunities arose and he was able to get some good breaks and got after it from that standpoint. At the end there just wasn't enough consistency or enough connecting the dots on offense to have a big inning."

Wilson big plus for bullpen

Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless inning Tuesday night, allowing one hit and striking out three. Since a six-day break at the beginning of the month, Wilson has made five scoreless appearances and allowed three hits, one walk and struck out five. He will be on the postseason roster, a benefit to the bullpen that he has returned to form.

"We counted on him coming back and being effective," Hurdle said. "That's the reason we gave him the week down, just for rest and revitalization. He's been an integral part of the bullpen. We anticipated that he'd be able to fill right back in once we got him some down time."

Wilson's fastball, according to PitchF/X, has averaged almost 97 mph in his past two outings.

Jones gets start

Hurdle started Garrett Jones in right as part of a plan to give reserves at-bats and keep them fresh in case they are needed.

"Jones has had success here," Hurdle said. "We got him an at-bat [Tuesday] night. He's working on some things. Byrd needs a rest. Just a combination of trying to find opportunities for some of those guys off the bench to get three or four at-bats just to stay sharp for their pinch-hitting opportunities."

Jones was hitting 16 for 47 with five doubles in his previous 14 games at Wrigley Field, but went 0 for 4 Wednesday.


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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