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Presley talks about his return from injury

The Pirates haven't had a whole lot of success since the calendar flipped to August, having watched their winning record quickly disappear with a 7-16 month that has left them miles behind the division-leading Brewers.

But with the return of a couple talented youngsters in Alex Presley and Chase d'Arnaud, and Jose Tabata having no trouble at the plate since his return from the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 16, Pittsburgh will at least get a good feel for what the future holds over the next month and a half.

"It's important for all of us younger guys just to prove ourselves as a player and show that we can belong here and can contribute on a day-to-day basis," d'Arnaud said.

The 24-year-old infielder has a chance to make a lasting impact with manager Clint Hurdle, who said d'Arnaud would see time at second, third and short during the remainder of the season.

Presley was thrown right into the fire on Thursday, hitting second and playing left field with a 1-for-5 performance at the plate, which included an RBI and a run scored. Tabata, meanwhile, had a hit in every game since his return until Thursday's 8-4 loss to the Cardinals.

With this weekend's series at Busch Stadium marking the last time the two squads will play there this season, the Pirates have a chance to secure their first winning series in St. Louis since 2008.

They'll try to get the best of Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook, who has provided his squad with solid innings down the stretch run. He's thrown at least six innings in six of his last seven outings, including seven strong against the Cubs his last time out, allowing just two runs.

"[Westbrook] knew what was at stake here," manager Tony La Russa said. "So he gave us life. He went out there and did exactly what he knew we needed."

James McDonald takes the hill for the Pirates in the second part of a four-game set between the two teams. McDonald wasn't able to throw his signature curveball his last time out against the Reds due to a fingernail issue, though he still labored through six innings of three-run ball, striking out five.

"I'm happy with the progress," said McDonald, who is 8-6 with a 4.21 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 139 innings this season. "But it could be a lot better."

Pirates: Catching tandem just works
Michael McKenry got the nod at catcher in Thursday's series opener with the Cards and picked up a pair of hits in three at-bats, including an RBI double and a run scored, before being replaced by Ryan Doumit in the eighth inning.

The two backstops have shared catching duties recently and will continue to do so, Hurdle said. Since he's joined the Pirates, McKenry has caught 10 of the 11 starts by right-hander Charlie Morton.

"It just seems to really be working well," Hurdle said. "This is one that is just making sense right now. We'll just leave it alone."

Cardinals: Schumaker heating up
With a four-hit night on Wednesday, second baseman Skip Schumaker raised his average above .300 for the first time since April 6. He's even begun to hit leadoff again, having spent four of his last seven starts at that spot.

Schumaker has hit .358 since the All-Star break, after hitting just .267 in the first half. He started cold last year as well, with a .211 April average, before turning his season around.

"He got off to a slow start and he salvaged his season very admirably," said La Russa. "He's just a gung-ho, relentless competitor and grinder. Those are the kinds of guys you win with."

Worth noting
• With Presley and Tabata back in the outfield, joining Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates boast a speedy set of fly chasers for the pitching staff to work with.

"I've got to believe we've got an outfield with top-shelf range in terms of running down balls," said Hurdle. "If that ball goes up with a hump in it, we've got a chance for it to end up in a glove."

• While La Russa said that the Cardinals have all but decided who will get the call when rosters expand in September, mentioning infielder Tyler Greene as someone who will probably get a look, he said the bulk of those players wouldn't arrive until the season ends in Triple-A Memphis on Sept. 5.

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