Day off for Alvarez, Martin

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Manager Clint Hurdle sends out a somewhat typical junior varsity lineup this Sunday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers with the most notable absence being that of Pedro Alvarez. Russell Martin also gets the day off, as Chris Stewart makes his Pirates debut.

Alvarez has started every game this season and batted fourth every time. The results have not been all that unexpected. His batting line is: .162/.288/.441 -- .729. That’s not far off his career line, which includes a .748 OPS.

But, as always, with Alvarez, it’s what have you done for me lately. And that would be three hits in his past 33 at-bats since the memorable game in Chicago in which his three-run homer in the seventh was the margin of victory.

The rest against right-hander Marco Estrada, against whom he is 3-for-18 with a home run, might do Alvarez some good and might not. There’s no accounting for the beginning and ending of his slumps.

Josh Harrison gets the start in place of Alvares. It's his first of the season and comes following games in which he twice delivered as a pinch-hitter, including a critical two-run homer Thursday against the Brewers, which was a bit lost in the 11-2 final score.

Stewart came off the disabled list Saturday after rehabbing his knee, which required surgery during spring training. The Pirates signed him in the offseason specifically to back up Martin. Tony Sanchez, as expected, was demoted to Indianapolis with the addition of Stewart to the roster.

The Pirates lineup today reads like this: Starling Marte, LF; Harrison, 3B; Andrew McCutchen, CF; Ike Davis 1B; Neil Walker, 2B; Jose Tabata, RF; Clint Barmes, SS; Stewart, C; Gerrit Cole, P.

It’s the third straight start for Tabata, who has been 0-for-3 and 2-for-5 in those games. It looks like he might get a chance to continue in that starting role. Travis Snider, who was getting most of the starts in right field, has two hits in his past 17 at-bats.

Cole’s starts have gotten progressively worse this season. He opened with seven inning and two runs in a 12-2 win over St. Louis on April 4. That was followed by four runs in six innings in a 5-4 win over the Cubs on April 10. In his last start, he gave up five runs (and nine hits) in six innings in a 7-5 loss to Cincinnati.

For the season, Cole is 2-1 with a 4.74 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP and a 2.74 BAA. Those numbers last season were: 3.22, 1.17 and .253.

One final stat, which says a lot about the Pirates’ 8-10 record. This season, their starters are 13th in ERA, 12th in WHIP and ninth in BAA. Last season, those rankings were fourth, eighth and first.

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