PHOENIX -- The Bucs' season-long hitting slump has been a team effort. GM Neal Huntington points out that on most nights the Pirates have a "two-man offense," and manager Clint Hurdle says they have "a handful of guys playing catchup, trying to get hot."One at a time. Neil Walker appears to have caught up. His RBI single in the first inning Monday night came after back-to-back two-hit games against the Giants. "Very encouraging," Hurdle said before the game. "Like everyone else, he's been working hard, three, four days of extra batting practice, and getting some results always brings more confidence. All of a sudden, he's squaring up balls he's getting to hit. I know each and every one of them can do it." Maybe Jose Tabata will be next. It can't be Pedro Alvarez, who sat out Monday night's start against left-hander Joe Saunders. But Tabata (4-for-30) isn't too far ahead of Alvarez (1-for-19). "He's still looking to get comfortable at the plate," Hurdle said. "He's still working to find it. He's looking for a good stretch to get back that swagger. "Why not swagger first? It's like waiting for a pocket full of money to feel rich. ... Why not just walk around like you're rich? Pretty soon, you'll start believing you are. You've got to believe you're a good hitter before you start getting the hits." And what if the Pirates just don't climb out of this batting slump? "We're gonna give up," Hurdle said with a sly glint in his eyes. "We're gonna shut it down. I'm going to call Bud [Commissioner Bud Selig] and say, 'Look, we're not ready. We need out.'" In other words: Play the game, let the results happen.
Karstens has history of success in Arizona
PHOENIX -- Pirates right-hander Jeff Karstens must not have gotten the memo about the D-backs' home being a hitter's haven. As an inter-divisional foe, Karstens doesn't get to pitch here too often. When he does, however, he feels like he's living in a TV commercial.Chase (Field is) what matters, indeed. Karstens will make his third career start here in Tuesday night's middle game of the series. In the prior two, he allowed one run in 15 innings. Included is his second game as a Pirates pitcher, on Aug. 6, 2008, when he was four outs shy of a perfect game when Chris Young doubled into the left-field corner with two outs in the eighth. Karstens went on to finish a two-hit shutout -- the first of his two career complete games. "And the ball carries here well. It's not a particularly easy place to pitch. But I've done well," Karstens said. Start No. 2 came last season on Sept. 19, when he allowed five hits and a run in six innings, but took a 1-0 loss to Ian Kennedy, his mound opponent again Tuesday night. That was Kennedy's 20th win of 2011.
Pirates hope Arizona heat warms up bats
PHOENIX -- Good pitching stops hot hitting. Does warm weather stop cold hitting?The Pirates hope so, and will find out during this three-game series in the Valley of the Sun, where unseasonably "cool" meant a game-time temperature of 81 degrees Monday night. "What I'm holding onto," manager Clint Hurdle said before the game, "is that getting out of the cold will help us get going. It's no excuse, but we just had three of the coldest days I'd ever spent in Los Angeles [during last week's Tuesday-Thursday series that opened this nine-game trip]. And San Francisco was chilly ... until Sunday. Sunday was beautiful!" That was Hurdle's facetious reference to the Pirates beating the Giants that day, 4-1, to snap a five-game losing streak. "I also looked forward to us just getting to a place that's easier on the eye," the manager added, referring to hitter-friendly Chase Field. "This has always been a comfortable place to hit. The background is incredible. Friendly gaps. One of the greatest places in the big leagues to hit." The Pirates then came to the right place -- especially if their own pitchers don't mind. They came into Monday's game having neither scored nor allowed more than five runs in any of their first nine games -- the first National League team to do that since the 1968 Dodgers.
Larry Fitzgerald, the sensational former Pitt and current Arizona receiver, compared cuts with Andrew McCutchen. Fitzgerald may have won the 'do, but McCutchen has it all over him swinging the bat. Fitzgerald attended D-backs BP but left the hitting to the pros on Monday. Holy Toledo! A.J. Burnett's rehab moved up to Triple-A on Monday, his pitch count moved up to 81, but his start in Indianapolis was spoiled by the Toledo Mud Hens. Burnett was touched for seven hits and surrendered four walks in four innings, and they added up to five runs in the Indians' 9-2 loss. Fifty-two of Burnett's pitches were strikes -- yet he did not register a strikeout.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.