5/31/2013 6:29 P.M. ET
Bucs get boost with Cardinals' delayed loss
By Tom Singer and Steven Petrella / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- In the shadow of the September wire, it may no longer matter because there might be a wide separation -- either way -- between the Pirates and St. Louis. For present purposes, however, the late-Thursday, early-Friday decision to wait out a rainstorm and have the Royals and Cardinals play to a pre-dawn conclusion greatly impacted the National League Central race.
To review: Kansas City was in the midst of a three-run rally into a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth when the storm pelted Busch Stadium. A stoppage would have reverted the score to the last completed inning, meaning a 2-1 Cardinals victory.
Under umpiring crew chief Joe West's directive, the teams waited out a four-hour, 32-minute delay. The final out of the Royals' win was recorded at 4:14 a.m. ET.
So the Bucs neared within 1 1/2 games of the division-leading Cards, instead of remaining 2 1/2 back.
"It would've been a hard situation to deal with. Interesting," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was brought up to speed on the developments in a phone chat with George Brett, his former teammate and the Royals' new batting coach. "I called to welcome him back to the show, and he gets into the whole situation. It was crazy."
How much will the craziness take out of the Cardinals? Coincidence or not, the Pirates were said to have come up empty following their 19-inning win in St. Louis last Aug. 19, which preceded their late-season collapse. That game was played in six hours and seven minutes. Including a one-hour pre-game delay, the Cards' overnight adventure took seven hours, 59 minutes.
Pirates recall Presley, option Harrison to Triple-A
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates recalled outfielder Alex Presley from Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday and optioned infielder Josh Harrison to Indianapolis.
Infielder Chase d'Arnaud was also recalled from his rehab assignment and optioned to Indianapolis.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he wanted Harrison's right-handed bat as an option off the bench against the Tigers bullpen. But the Reds will start three righties this weekend, and don't have any left-on-left specialized relievers outside of closer Aroldis Chapman, as Detroit did.
"I'll be looking to maybe give an outfielder a day down moving forward in this series or the next one," Hurdle said. "Presley could slide into anyone of those three spots."
Presley has hit .281 in 41 games with Indianapolis this season, going 5-for-12 in his last three games. He went 1-for-3 in six games with the Pirates from April 15-24, making his first appearance with Pittsburgh as a pinch-runner on April 22 in Philadelphia.
Starting 2012 as the Pirates' leadoff man, Presley hit .237 in 104 games last season. He had 10 home runs, 25 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 16 attempts.
"Bunting for hits, things like that, stealing, it's important to the organization that I do those things," Presley said. "And I don't expect anything to change here. It's the same game. I'm going to play to my strengths."
While Presley will get a shot this weekend, d'Arnaud still has some work to do before rejoining the Pirates.
He's been on the disabled list since the start of the season after undergoing left thumb surgery on March 18. He made two rehab appearances with Class A Bradenton and four with Double-A Altoona before going 6-for-20 in five rehab games with Indianapolis.
To make room for d'Arnaud on the 40-man roster, the Pirates moved pitcher Charlie Morton from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day, although he can still be activated at any time. Morton is expected to make a rehab start for Indianapolis Sunday after giving up four runs, seven hits and three walks over five innings for the Indians on May 27.
Hurdle still feeling good about 95-win goal
PITTSBURGH -- Before the start of the season, Clint Hurdle tried to project how many victories would get the Pirates into the playoffs and came up with a safe number: 95.
Why safe? Since the three-division Wild Card setup, a total of 71 teams have won 95-plus games, and 83 percent of them (59) appeared in the postseason.
"That's a big number, and I still believe in that 100 percent," Hurdle repeated Friday afternoon -- from a considerably different vantage point.
The Pirates had knocked off one-third of their season before taking the field against the Reds, and with a record of 34-20, they were on pace for -- are you ready? -- 102 wins. To baseball people, "pace" is a four-letter word. Nevertheless, Hurdle thinks his club can even pick up the pace.
"Not on the bullpen side, obviously, but there's more there, out of the starting rotation and the offense," the manager said. "Defensively we've played well, and we've run the bases extremely well, getting the extra 90s and dirt-ball reads."
Translating Hurdle-ese: Taking extra bases on hits and getting good jumps on pitches that elude the catcher.
"If we get 95 wins, we'll be in the playoffs," Hurdle repeated.
First number, last word
1,000: Games in PNC Park history, with Friday night's opener of the series with the Reds. The Pirates had won 488 of the first 999.
"They're behind the curtain, in a place called Oz." -- Hurdle, in response to a question about who is responsible for the defensive shifts the Pirates have used extensively and with good results.
• Bryan Morris earned wins in both Wednesday's and Thursday's games against the Tigers, and said it was "the first time in my life I've won games on consecutive days, on any level."
With three wins in 17 2/3 innings and for a total of 259 pitches, the reliever has as many wins as does A.J. Burnett in 76 innings and 1,230 pitches.
"That's just crazy," Morris said. "A.J.'s been pitching out of this world."
• The Bucs' quartet of 1-0 wins through 54 games is the most they have ever had (since 1916) and third most among all teams. Only the 1918 Red Sox and Senators, with five each, had more.
Four of the Senators' 1-0 wins came in a seven-game span -- two of them authored by Walter Johnson -- the only more concentrated feat than the Bucs' four in 11 games.
• Five other blankings have the Pirates leading the Majors with a total of nine shutouts. The Bucs had a total of 10 last season, and did not post No. 9 until Aug. 29.
• It's Heritage Weekend at PNC Park. As part of the observations, the Reds (Cincinnati Tigers) and Pirates (Homestead Grays) will play Saturday night in Negro Leagues replica uniforms.
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. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.