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07/29/12 4:02 PM ET

Pirates can't help but have one eye on Reds

HOUSTON -- Pirates players getting dressed following Saturday night's game paused long enough to glance up at the clubhouse TV and urge Michael Cuddyer's drive into the left-field seats of Coors Field. The seventh-inning two-run clout narrowed the Reds' lead over Colorado to 8-7.

Cincinnati prevailed in that game, 9-7, keeping its two-game lead over the Bucs in the National League Central. So the home run was not as significant as the Pirates' reaction to it.

Think the Bucs are aware they are in a pennant race?

"It'd be nice if the Reds could drop a game every once in a while," Jason Grilli, who'd just earned his second save, said with a scowl.

The Bucs are also aware of being on a 10-game road trip that will conclude with three games in Cincinnati. Baseball's play-'em-one-game-at-a-time caveat appears to be taking a beating.

"This trip is very favorable for us," Grilli said, "and we're gonna go head-to-head [with the Reds], which is going to be pretty awesome, especially when we're playing with confidence like we are. I know I am [looking forward to the Cincinnati series]."

Such looks-ahead tend to make managers wince. Clint Hurdle simply shrugged.

"I can't control what other people say or do," Hurdle said. "One thing I know for sure from raising three children: As soon as I tell them to not do something, I know exactly what happens next.

"I do remind them that distractions can come. If you eliminate them, everyone is better served."

Presumably, Hurdle was talking about eliminating the distractions, not the Reds. Not yet, anyway.

Correia hoping to be traded before Deadline

HOUSTON -- Kevin Correia thought he would spend Monday at Wrigley Field pitching for his seventh straight victory. Instead, the Pittsburgh right-hander had to settle for his first relief appearance on Sunday while counting down the hours to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Correia, who hopes his name pops up on the transactions list, gave up four runs in two innings of a 9-5 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Correia's desire to be dealt isn't breaking news. He is out of the Pirates' rotation, making way for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, and has been out of sight. Sitting on a six-decision winning streak, Correia is in an uncomfortable position.

"I want to start. For me to start, I'd either have to go elsewhere, or have someone get hurt here," Correia said. "I don't want to see anyone get hurt, so ..."

Manager Clint Hurdle had his sit-down with Correia on the club's first day in Houston. Did Correia then pointedly inquire about the chances of him being dealt?

"[General manager] Neal Huntington wasn't part of that conversation, so what would have been the point? The manager doesn't make those calls," Correia said.

The market for starting pitchers has been thinning out. Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano and Anibal Sanchez have been dealt. Ryan Dempster has made his market razor-thin. Matt Garza and Josh Johnson top the lists of shoppers.

"Maybe after all the No. 1s are off the board, then teams will start looking at me," Correia said, with a light shrug.

Hurdle gives McCutchen rare respite for finale

HOUSTON -- And on the 101st day, Andrew McCutchen rested.

The Pirates' center fielder finally got a partial day off on Sunday, sitting out the beginning of the finale against the Astros. McCutchen was called on to pinch-hit in the sixth inning of the Bucs' 9-5 loss to the Astros, popping out with the bases loaded.

The Majors' batting leader missed a couple of games in early May due to a stomach virus, so July 1 had been his only previous legitimate rest day.

Factor in that the National League All-Star and Home Run Derby participant didn't even have a restful All-Star Game break, and manager Clint Hurdle thought the time was right for a respite.

Starling Marte started in center, between left fielder Alex Presley and Garrett Jones in right.

"It was time for him to get a blow," Hurdle said of McCutchen, batting .369 after going 4-for-11 in the first three games of the series.

The Pirates will have an off-day on Thursday, between three-game sets in Chicago and Cincinnati. That will be their final lull prior to a stretch of playing 20 straight days through Aug. 22.

"I have plans for other guys [to rest] as we finish this trip and move into that 20-game stretch," Hurdle said.

The sample size is small, but Justin Germano, the Cubs' tentative starting pitcher on Monday, has been put on alert: In McCutchen's two return games, he has gone 5-for-7, with a home run and three RBIs.

Worth noting

• With everyday No. 3 hitter McCutchen taking the day off, Neil Walker batted in that slot for only the second time this season.

• Right-hander Juan Cruz (elbow inflammation) on Sunday threw the first bullpen session on his comeback agenda.

• Rod Barajas' tie-breaking single in the ninth inning Saturday was only the Pirates' fifth run-scoring hit to not leave the yard in a span of nine games; in that same stretch, the Pirates had 13 home runs.

• With 71 home runs in their first 51 road games, the Pirates have a shot at a new club record. The 1966 edition set the standard with 110.

Last word

"I encourage them all the time: Go out and play like it's the backyard. Be six. When you see grownup men do that, it's refreshing."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on stopping to smell the roses on the pennant-race track.

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.