6/15/2013 4:56 P.M. ET
Pirates pull off rehearsed 'Rudy' play
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The final run of the Pirates' 3-0 Friday night victory appeared to be a result of answered opportunity.
With men on first and third and none out in the eighth, Neil Walker hit a foul popup about 100 feet beyond first base as both runners tagged up, and when Adrian Gonzalez made an over-the-shoulder catch, Gaby Sanchez took second as Andrew McCutchen scored.
Yet, as hard as it may be to believe, that was a rehearsed play that only needed the ball to be hit to the right spot.
"McCutchen scores as Gaby takes off to draw a throw -- which wasn't even needed this time, but we practiced that play all spring and finally had a chance to use it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "[First-base coach] Rick Sofield came up with that. That's our 'Rudy' play."
Yes, there is a reason that play is called "Rudy" -- and it has nothing to do with the play itself, or with the movie of that title, for that matter.
In Sofield's own words: "Mickey Mahler, the left-hander, was teammates on the  Angels with Bruce Kison, a big practical joker. Mahler liked to get on the umpire's good side by developing a first-name relationship, but he didn't know the guy he'd be throwing to this one day.
"So Mahler asked Kison the name of the plate umpire, and Kison says, 'That's Rudy.'
"First inning, close pitch is called a ball and Mahler spreads his arms and says with a smile, 'Hey, Rudy. C'mon.' Mahler doesn't get a call on any close pitch. He throws a fastball right down the middle and the umpire calls it a ball. Mahler is going, 'Come on, Rudy! Give me a break!'
"And the umpire taps the catcher on the shoulder and says, 'Tell him I'm going to keep calling balls as long as he keeps calling me Rudy.'"
Sofield said the actual name of the umpire that day has been blurred by the passage of time.
"But, ever since," Sofield said, "that's been my backup when I don't know what to call someone or something: Rudy."
Pirates designate left-hander Zagurski for assignment
PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Mike Zagurski, whose comeback hopes with the Pirates dead-ended in a series of ineffective outings, was designated for assignment on Saturday, clearing roster space for Brandon Cumpton.
Zagurski, 30, impressed in Spring Training camp as a non-roster invitee and gave further encouragement upon starting the season in Triple-A. In 19 appearances with Indianapolis, he fashioned a 2.14 ERA with 37 strikeouts and nine walks in 21 innings.
However, following his late May recall, things quickly fell apart for him after a scoreless inning in his first outing on May 27 in Detroit.
In six appearances and six innings with the Pirates, Zagurski allowed 10 hits and 10 earned runs, walking nearly as many (eight) as he had in two months with the Indians.
Marte misses third straight game with rib issue
PITTSBURGH -- Starling Marte remained out of the Pirates' lineup on Saturday but remained on the team's active roster.
One of those situations will change after Sunday's game.
Marte missed his third straight game with discomfort in his left ribcage area, and his absence was particularly felt this time, with the Pirates contending with Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Lefty-hitting Alex Presley was back in left and atop the batting order.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has no intention of starting a key National League Central series on Monday against the Reds a man short.
"We're trying to give [Marte] the same three-five days we've given other players who have gone down, then we have to do what's best for the ball club," Hurdle said. "We'll have to decide through the weekend, and post him [on the disabled list] if he can't play in Cincinnati.
"We're playing too many games right now short. I don't want to go into Cincinnati short."
Entering Saturday's game, left-handed hitters had 10 hits in 68 at-bats (.147) against Kershaw. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez and Presley were both in the lineup for the limited Pirates: Having Brandon Inge in right and Jordy Mercer at short removed alternatives at third base.
Hurdle briefly considered playing Russell Martin either in the outfield or at third and catching Michael McKenry, but couldn't afford having both of his catchers as well as the emergency No. 3 guy (Inge) simultaneously in the lineup.
"I did give it some thought, but decided against it," the manager said.
First number, last word
24: Complete-game shutouts in the Major Leagues through Friday, out of a total of 141 team blankings. The Pirates led the big leagues with 11 shutouts entering Saturday play, in none of which the starting pitcher went beyond the seventh inning.
"I need to make a decision I can sleep with. For me, if the game gets away from us with [Mark] Melancon, I can sleep. Leaving Jeff [Locke] in there and having the game get away -- I can't sleep with that." -- Hurdle, on the eighth-inning move to reliever Melancon in Friday night's game despite Locke having had thrown 75 pitches in seven innings and had not allowed a hit after the second.
• Jeff Karstens reported he will have the stitches from his shoulder removed on Sunday, nine days after his arthroscopic surgery to clean up the rotator cuff and labrum.
• The Pirates had 11 shutouts in their first 67 games for the first time since 1908, but here's the rub: Those Bucs didn't pick up whitewash No. 12 until game No. 84, so the current staff appears to have a pretty good chance to set the new pace standard.
• Interested in a defensive breakdown of those 11 shutouts at the key position of shortstop? Clint Barmes has started six of them, Jordy Mercer three and, prior to his stint on the disabled list and ensuing trade, John McDonald two.
• The Pirates' 3-0 victory Friday, the night after being beaten 10-0 by the Giants, improved their post-blowout record to 5-2, when "blowout" is defined as a loss either by at least six runs or in which they allowed a total of more than 10 runs.
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.