NYM@PIT: Walker singles home Sanchez to cut deficit

PITTSBURGH -- Since Gregory Polanco was called up and Starling Marte has regained his stroke at the plate, the top three spots in the Pirates' order have belonged to their "dream outfield."

But the cleanup spot has been a revolving door for the Bucs in recent weeks.

Pedro Alvarez was removed from the No. 4 hole in late May, and the slot has since been primarily filled by platooning the left-handed Ike Davis and the right-handed Gaby Sanchez at first base. However, after Neil Walker came off the disabled list (appendectomy) on June 24, six of the switch-hitting second baseman's 10 starts have come in the cleanup role.

Davis was slotted fourth in the Pirates' starting order for the 26th time this season Saturday against Phillies right-hander David Buchanan, while Walker was getting the day off.

"We've tried a couple different number fours," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I like the lineup the way it is now, but Walker is getting a day today, so we'll tweak it a little bit. The nice thing about these guys is they're tweak-able."

While Hurdle continues to make adjustments, the Pirates' numbers for the No. 4 spot are among the worst in baseball this season. Regardless of who's penciled in the cleanup spot, the Bucs' .214 average and .639 OPS from that position in the lineup both ranked 28th in the Majors entering Saturday.

Cole likely to make next start after early exit

PHI@PIT: Cole holds Phils to one hit over five frames

PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole played catch and appeared to be fine the day after he left a start after five innings and 80 pitches with right lat soreness.

While meeting with the media before his club's 3-2 victory over the Phillies on Saturday, manager Clint Hurdle said the 23-year-old righty was being evaluated.

Cole had said some muscles in his back tightened up while he was pitching Friday. Both he and Hurdle downplayed the issue after the Pirates' 8-2 win against Philadelphia, saying Cole's removal was more of a cautious move than anything else.

"It just got a little tight," Cole said Friday night. "Instead of trying to push through it, coming back, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to take a step back for a minute."

Cole cruised through his five innings before exiting, giving up no runs on one hit. He also had five strikeouts in the start, his second since being activated from the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue, which caused him to miss a little more than three weeks in June.

On Saturday afternoon, though, it did not appear the latest bump in the road would force Cole back to the DL. Cole (7-4, 3.78 ERA) was scheduled to start again Wednesday in St. Louis.

First note, last word

2.22: Jeff Samardzija's career ERA in 20 appearances against the Pirates. Samardzija, along with fellow starter Jason Hammel, was traded out the National League Central by the Cubs to the A's on Friday night.

"I do believe when they get Samardzija on the mound, this will be a retro Dennis Eckersley lookalike from back in the day. With that hair, and they get a mustache on him, that'll be right up there." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Samardzija's trade to the A's.

Worth noting

• The Pirates claimed infielder Dean Anna off waivers from the Yankees on Saturday and assigned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. Anna, 27, played 12 games for New York in April, hitting .136. He was optioned to Triple-A on April 24, the level where he spent all of last season in San Diego's farm system.

• Left-hander Francisco Liriano is on schedule to make a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. Liriano, who has been sidelined with a strained left oblique since June 10, threw a 73-pitch simulated game on Wednesday.

• The Pirates are 7-2 against the National League East this season at PNC Park and 10-5 overall against the division.