HOUSTON -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was not the first manager to make the point when he said the other day, "Three-run homers make up for a lot of bad execution."
A lot, perhaps, but not all: When Garrett Jones clubbed his 24th homer on Friday night, he joined Andrew McCutchen (30) and Pedro Alvarez (29) in giving the current Pirates the seventh-most potent trio in club history.
And here's the rub: Unless the '12 Bucs reverse course, they will be the sixth of those seven to finish with a losing record. The only exception then would be the 1971 World Series champions, No. 2 on this list.
Today's Pirates still have a couple more rungs within their reach on the roll, which stood like this prior to Saturday night's game:
• 1947 (Ralph Kiner, Hank Greenberg, Wally Westlake) 62-92 final record.
• 1971 (Willie Stargell, Bob Robertson, Richie Hebner) 97-65.
• 1949 (Kiner, Westlake, Dino Restelli) 71-83
• 1973 (Stargell, Hebner, Al Oliver) 80-82
• 1999 (Brian Giles, Kevin Young, Al Martin) 78-83.
• 2001 (Giles, Aramis Ramirez, Young) 62-100.
• 2012 (McCutchen, Alvarez, Jones) ??-??.
Hurdle looking to find an opening for Karstens
HOUSTON -- The last time Jeff Karstens started a game and was physically able to get more than one out, the Pirates had a 68-58 record and were one game out of a playoff spot.
The date was Aug. 25, and Karstens pitched the first seven innings of a 4-0 blanking of the Brewers. In nearly a month since, he has pitched 3 1/3 innings -- and that includes the Aug. 31 start in Milwaukee abridged to 1/3 of an inning by an aggravation of the hip pointer that had forced him out of the Aug. 25 meeting.
Since fully recovering from that injury, Karstens has spent 10 days in the bullpen, emerging for only one relief appearance. Manager Clint Hurdle essentially said Saturday that he owes a comeback start to the right-hander who has twice fought his way back from injury -- but even that would be too little, too late to make Karstens feel any less responsible for the Bucs' collapse.
"I would put some of the blame for the way we're playing on myself," Karstens said. "Over the last couple of years, I tried to be one of the guys they can count on every time out, and I haven't been there for my guys.
"It's unfortunate and tough, and something I don't like. I want to help, but when you're hurt, you can't. It's been a very roller-coaster season for me, with all the rehab."
This latest detour was minimal compared to the shoulder inflammation that had knocked Karstens out from April 17 to June 25. Because he had battled his way back from both injuries, Hurdle hopes to find an opening for a Karstens start.
It won't be easy. The four-game rotation for the series in New York against the Mets has been set, and it excludes Karstens. Following that, a six-game homestand will lower the curtain on the season.
"He's been a big part of what we've tried to do here the last two years," Hurdle said. "I want to make sure to honor every opportunity to find a way back for him, outside of just the bullpen work. I'll continue to keep that in sight."
The last word
"They might be the biggest fashionistas of any team. They can throw some stuff at you -- and they have. There was a time I thought the choreographer for the Marquette Warriors was involved (in designing their uniforms). Maybe Ralph Lauren. Picasso could've come into play somewhere."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, reflecting on some of the Houston Astros' colorful and exotic uniform choices through the years.
• One reason the Bucs and their fans were eager for Starling Marte's arrival is the speed and arm that made him ideal to handle PNC Park's vast left field. But is the park less friendly to his offense? Through his first 36 big league games, going into Saturday's action, Marte was batting .297 on the road and .206 at home.
• On Friday, Garrett Jones clubbed his 82nd homer since signing with Pittsburgh prior to the 2009 season. Andrew McCutchen is second during that stretch, with 81.
• Pirates manager Clint Hurdle got nostalgic watching Astros great Craig Biggio deliver the first pitch prior to Friday night's game. He recalled watching from the same dugout seat on June 28, 2007, when Biggio collected his 3,000th career hit -- off Aaron Cook of Hurdle's Rockies.
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.