Bob Smizik: Take me out to the ball game!

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Random thoughts on the Pirates' 11-6, four-homer rout of the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander last night at PNC Park:

• There’s no better place to smell the roses of the Pirates 2014 season than PNC Park. This is where the true believers congregate; where seldom is heard a negative word; where Bob Nutting isn’t on the lips or in the thoughts of most of the people; where no one is heard complaining about the Pirates bench or the first-base situation. Instead, they’re soaking in the joy of being at a ball game and watching the home-town team -- the winning home-town team -- take the field. It's an invigorating experience -- even for the most skeptical.

• With a 3-for-5 night, Josh Harrison raised his batting average to .318. If he were eligible, and he’s currently not, he’d have been third in the National League, three points behind Justin Morneau and 22 points behind injured Troy Tulowitzki. Harrison has 340 plate appearances and should be eligible in 13 more games. Eligibility is based on 3.1 plate appearances for each team game.

• Since July 27, this is Harrison’s batting line: .453/.493/.859 -- 1.352

• The Pirates routed routed Verlander with a five-run first inning. Starling Marte’s bases-loaded triple was the big hit. Marte is 9-for-25 (.360) since coming off the disabled list.

• Travis Snider hit two home runs, one in the second, one in the eighth. Since June 6, in 89 at bats, Snider is hitting .315 with six homers, 17 RBIs and an OPS of around .850.

• Gregory Polanco is hitting .368 in 38 at bats this month with an OPS over 1.000.

• Jeff Locke did himself no favors in his bid to stay in the starting rotation when Gerrit Cole returns. Staked to an 8-0 lead, he had to be relieved in the sixth inning, when the first five batters reached base safely -- four hits and a walk. With a 5-0 lead in the second, he walked the first two batters.

• Another strong performance from Jared Hughes, who came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation in relief of Locke. He retired three straight batters, with an infield out scoring one run. He pitched two scoreless innings.

• For some reason, the Pirates replaced Andrew McCutchen, finally dispatched to the DL, with right-handed reliever Casey Sadler. With a 10-4 lead in the eighth, Sadler had to be relieved after allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning.

• In pre-game comments, manager Clint Hurdle said Pedro Alvarez was ''real close’’ to being ready for game action at first base. But not close enough, after pinch-hitting -- and striking out -- to take the field in the eighth with the Pirates leading by six runs. Makes you wonder what will have to transpire in the days ahead to make him ready to start a game.

• Ike Davis homered, but it’s not likely he won over any of his legion of critics since it came with the Pirates leading, 9-4.

• On May 31, Jordy Mercer was batting .199. Since that date he is batting .304 (70-for-230). Clint Barmes started at shortstop for the Pirates on June 19. Mercer has started every game since.

• Since McCutchen’s hadn’t played since Aug. 3, he is eligible to come off the DL early next week. It will be interesting to see how soon he returns. If he returns to play shortly after becoming eligible, it will mean the Pirates were making a prudent gamble in keeping him active -- and playing a man short. If it remains some time before he begins play, it will mean they were possibly kidding themselves and foolishly playing a man short.

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