Pirates Notebook: A rainout with little rain

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CHICAGO -- It barely rained on Wrigley Field yesterday, but the Chicago Cubs made quite the mess of the situation and, ultimately, postponed the series finale with the Pirates after a delay of three hours, 15 minutes.

First, there was a delay because of the threat of a storm. Then, after about 20 minutes of solid rain, there was barely a drop for nearly two hours while the Cubs -- the home team is singularly responsible for calling the beginning of any game -- waited for another storm to arrive.


Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Pitching: RHP Kevin Hart (3-2, 3.69) vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-9, 5.80).

Season series: Milwaukee, 6-2.

Key matchup: A recently converted reliever, Villanueva has yet to pitch six full innings in any of his four starts. Once he gets past a pitch count of 30, his ERA is 7.79.

Of note: The Pirates, whose 87 home runs rank third-to-last in Major League Baseball, have hit multiple home runs in only 23 of their 116 games.

It never did.

By the time the game was called at 4:35 p.m. Central time, skies were almost fully clear, and many in the capacity crowd shouted and booed loudly. No more rain would fall the rest of the day.

"We saw more rain coming on the radar," Chicago manager Lou Piniella said after the postponement. "We did the best we could."

The Pirates flew home last night, while the Cubs had to fly to San Diego.

There was no firm makeup date announced, but the Pirates and Cubs are sure to try for a day-night doubleheader with one of the three games they are set to play at Wrigley Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Manager John Russell had to slightly revise his rotation: Kevin Hart will remain the starter tonight against Milwaukee. Ross Ohlendorf, the scheduled starter yesterday, will go tomorrow. Paul Maholm will pitch the finale against the Brewers Wednesday. The three for the weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds: Charlie Morton, Zach Duke and Hart.

Morton regroups

Morton took to a mound yesterday morning for the first time since giving up 10 runs in one-plus inning of the 17-2 loss Friday, and he and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan went back to basics in the bullpen: Five fastballs to each corner, one offspeed pitch, then repeat from the stretch.

"Nothing special," Morton said. "The focus for me is still on trying to get first-pitch strikes. We emphasized that even more here, especially with the fastball."

Judging by Kerrigan's upbeat reaction, the results were favorable. But the far more relevant sign will come Friday with his next start.

"You can't look at an outing like that as just a bad outing," Morton said. "At the same time, you have to kind of try. I'm trying not to dwell on it. If I dwell on it, you kind of think about the reality of it and it's like, 'Wow, I just gave up 10 runs in an inning.' That's hard to do even if you're trying to do it."

Alvarez to World Cup

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates' top prospect, has been invited to represent the United States in the International Baseball Federation's World Cup, which begins Sept. 9 and takes place in various major cities across Europe, including Barcelona, Prague and Moscow. Class AA Altoona's season ends Sept. 7.

Management is leaning toward not assigning Alvarez to any fall or winter league but, rather, having him focus on a conditioning program in which he would lose about 10 pounds and improve his chance of staying at third base.

Buried treasure

• Team president Frank Coonelly spent extensive time in the clubhouse and on the field before the game, mostly speaking with Russell and his coaches.

• Phil Dumatrait will make at least two appearances in Class AAA Indianapolis' bullpen before joining the Pirates.

• Reliever Donnie Veal, on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained finger, will join Altoona tomorrow to begin a rehabilitation stint.

Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog . Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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