Pittsburgh Pirates Report

Pittsburgh Pirates Report

Bobby Hill doesn't envision himself as a career pinch hitter at 26, but he took the opportunity to learn from one of the masters of the craft last season. <br><br>Hill and Lenny Harris, baseball's all-time leader in pinch hits, were teammates with the Chicago Cubs.

I asked Lenny how he was always so prepared when he pinch hit," said Hill, now an infielder with the Pirates. "He said it was pretty simple because the key was to always stay focused. He said it was important to go up there with the idea of looking for a good pitch to hit."

That is exactly what Hill did Wednesday at PNC Park, and he gave the Pirates, last in the National League Central, an improbable three-game sweep of the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.

Hill's pinch RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in the winning run in a 6-5 victory. The Pirates stretched their winning streak to five games, their longest since stringing together six victories in a row from April 15-21, 2002, and notched a three-game sweep of the Cardinals in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1989.

"It's a great feeling to come through in that situation," Hill said. "Pinch hitting is probably the toughest thing you can do in baseball. You sit around all day. When you come up to the plate you're stiff and you're cold.

"But you've got to find a way to get it done, especially with the game on the line. It was extra special to get a hit this time."

Pittsburgh Pirates Team Notes:

RHP Jose Mesa suffered his first blown save of the season Wednesday after converting 18 in a row. Mesa failed to hold a 5-4 lead in the ninth as St. Louis scored the tying run on Edgar Renteria's double play with the bases loaded. Despite blowing the save, Mesa did give the Pirates a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth as he limited the Cardinals to one run after they loaded the bases with none out.

LHP Mike Johnston felt no pain after throwing from the mound for the first time Wednesday since going on the DL on June 22 with elbow inflammation.

1B/OF Daryle Ward has some tearing in his right thumb, an MRI revealed Wednesday. The Pirates aren't sure how extensive the tear is, and he will be re-evaluated Thursday by Pittsburgh hand specialist Mark Baratz. Ward says he is feeling little pain and is optimistic he can return right after the All-Star break. Ward injured the thumb June 25 and was placed on the DL the next day.

The Pirates' players are collecting baseball equipment to send to Army troops in Iraq. Pitching coach Spin Williams got the idea from his nephew, Spc. Jared Weimer of the 216th Army Engineering Battalion, now stationed at Forward Operating Base Speicher in Iraq.

OF J.J. Davis was activated from the disabled list after a successful 19-game injury rehabilitation stint at Triple-A Nashville in which he hit .273 with seven homers and 15 RBIs.

Despite the outstanding power output in the minor leagues, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon is not ready to commit to giving Davis more playing time. Davis had only 21 at bats before going on the DL on May 13 with a sprained right pinky and did not play in his first two games after being activated.

To clear a roster spot, OF Ruben Mateo was designated for assignment. He hit .242 with three homers and seven RBIs in 19 games.

LHP Oliver Perez turned in one of the most dominant performances in recent memory Saturday (June 26) when he pitched seven shutout innings at Cincinnati and tied a career high with 13 strikeouts. Perez did not receive a decision in a game the Pirates eventually won 1-0.

Perez's 13 strikeouts were the most by a Pirates pitcher since Jose DeLeon struck out 14 New York Mets in 1985.

SS Jack Wilson notched his 100th hit of the season in only the Pirates' 70th game. That made Wilson the fastest Pirate to reach 100 hits since Matty Alou did it in 63 games in 1969. The Pirates haven't had a player with 200 hits in a season since Dave Parker had 215 in 1977.

The Pirates lost 11 straight road games before earning a 7-2 win at Houston on Wednesday (June 23). The Pirates hadn't lost that many in a row away from home since dropping 19 straight in 1985.

The Pirates won back-to-back road games at Cincinnati on Saturday and Sunday (June 26-27) for the first time since winning five straight away from home between May 13-26.

The Pirates bullpen had lost five straight decisions until RHP Mark Corey pitching one scoreless inning Saturday (June 26) to get the win in a 1-0 victory at Cincinnati.

3B/OF Jose Bautista could be coming back to the organization after Tampa Bay designated him for assignment last week. If Bautista, a Rule 5 draft pick at the winter meetings, clears waivers, then the Pirates can buy back his contract for $25,000.

Baltimore selected Bautista in the Rule 5 Draft but then designated him for assignment May 25. Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers June 3.

Bautista, who had never played above Class A until this season, hit a combined .217 with one RBI in 28 games for the Orioles and Devil Rays.

Double-A Altoona RHP Bryan Bullington and Class A Lynchburg OF Jorge Cortes have been selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game on July 11 in Houston. Bullington will pitch for the United States while Cortes, a native of Colombia, will play for the World.

Bullington, the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, is 5-3 with a 4.11 ERA in 14 starts. Cortes is hitting .301 with five homers and 35 RBIs in 62 games.

Altoona manager Tony Beasley will be a member of the U.S. coaching staff.

Class A Lynchburg manager Jay Loviglio resigned because for personal reasons.

Loviglio was in his first season at Lynchburg and guided the Hillcats to a 36-35 record. Loviglio spent eight seasons in the Pirates' organization and served as hitting instructor for Double-A Altoona in 2002 and Triple-A Nashville in 2003.

Pirates minor league field coordinator Jeff Banister has replaced Loviglio on an interim basis. However, roving infield instructor Doug Mansolino or roving hitting coordinator Jeff Manto is expected to finish out the season at Lynchburg.

Triple-A Nashville LHP Dave Williams will play for the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 14 at Pawtucket, R.I. Williams is 4-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 15 starts this season.

Class A Hickory RHP Chris Demaria has been added to the Northern Division team for the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on Tuesday (June 29) in Charleston, S.C. Demaria is 5-1 with three saves and a 2.30 ERA in 21 games.

SS Brian Bixler, the Pirates' second-round draft pick this year from Eastern Michigan University, signed and was assigned to short-season Class A Williamsport. Bixler was the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year this season. He hit .453 with eight homers, 47 RBIs and 31 steals in 59 games.

C Neil Walker, the Pirates' first-round draft pick from Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Pa., made his professional debut last week with Rookie Bradenton in the Gulf Coast League. He was 2-for-8 (.250) with one RBI in his first two games.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3-12 Pirates' record in games decided by two runs or less in June entering the week.

QUOTE "Crazy things happen around here." RHP Kip Wells, who left the Friday (June 25) game at Cincinnati with a 4-0 lead in the seventh and watched it turn into a 6-4 loss as the Reds scored six times in the inning.

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