PITTSBURGH -- It was almost as though Clint Hurdle could sense the question coming. The Pirates reached .500 for the first time (excluding the season's opening weekend) on Memorial Day, one of those sacrosanct "yardstick" days on the baseball calendar.How convenient. What does it all mean, Mr. Hurdle? "I like the direction we're headed," Hurdle said after his third-place club had inched within three games of the National League Central-leading Reds with Monday's 4-1 win. "But, sometimes, the yardstick isn't what you think it is. "I've been with a team that was nowhere near the lead on Memorial Day and played in the World Series. So some measuring sticks don't work." Hurdle was referring to his 2007 Rockies, who on Memorial Day reposed in the NL West basement. That team made a legendary September charge into the postseason, where it remained undefeated until the Fall Classic. "Yeah, we've still got more than two-thirds of the season to go," second baseman Neil Walker agreed. "But it's definitely nice to see us string some two-out hits. And the pitching keeps showing up."
Busy Harrison gets breather in opener vs. Reds
PITTSBURGH -- Josh Harrison, the Bucs' valuable and versatile rover, found yet another new position on Monday afternoon: The bench.Harrison was left out of the starting lineup for the series opener against the Reds, his first "miss" in two weeks. He had started 11 consecutive games since May 16 -- at five different positions. The majority came in right field, where Harrison settled in as a regular, but the most interesting scenario happened Sunday. Harrison started at short to give Clint Barmes a day off in the finale of the sweep over the Cubs, and manager Clint Hurdle received assurance that, indeed, Harrison could play the position. Oh, Harrison had often been there, just hadn't played much there. "We went through his first three, four games there, and he got like one ball [hit to him]," Hurdle said, grinning. "And it was the same in Spring Training. I'd be asked, 'Can he play short?' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I think so.' "But he's continued to work hard. And now we're seeing some positive things from him." Prior to Sunday and including the preseason, Harrison had made 23 appearances at short and averaged fewer than two chances in them. Sunday's action included both triggering a double play and being the pivot man in another. Harrison owned the National League's longest active hitting streak at 10 games, until going 0-for-6 in the last two games against the Cubs.
Runs in each of Monday's first three innings represented the first time the Bucs had scored in three straight innings at home since the third game of the season, when they scored in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a 5-4 walk-off win over the Phillies. The season's only other such bunch came on May 3 in St. Louis, where the Pirates scored in every inning from the sixth through the ninth.
Neil Walker went 2-for-4 Monday and is hitting .417 (15-for-36) in his last 10 games against the Reds.
Jose Tabata, who sat out the last three innings of Sunday's game after experiencing left leg cramps, gave the leg an extensive pregame test, then the thumbs-up for his inclusion in Monday's lineup. Tabata was in left and leading off, as usual. The Reds and Pirates are perceived as offensively polar opposites, yet until last weekend both were among the seven Major League teams that had yet to score in double figures. The Reds were excused from that list with their 10-3 win over Colorado on Saturday -- and the day after, the Bucs followed with their 10-4 beating of the Cubs.
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.