PITTSBURGH -- Over the last three weeks or so, third baseman Pedro Alvarez has been on a tear that's virtually unrivaled across Major League Baseball.Since June 16, when he went deep twice and drove in three runs against Cleveland, Alvarez leads the National League with seven home runs and all of baseball with 23 RBIs. He has been an offensive force, the player fans and management dreamed he'd become, but it's worth remembering his rough start to 2012. Alvarez had a .149 batting average and six RBIs through 15 games. He had just five extra-base hits -- four of which were home runs -- which led some to believe that a stint in Triple-A might do some good. Bucs manager Clint Hurdle was not one of them. "The easy way out is, 'Oh, they're not good enough -- send them down. They're not getting it down -- send them down,'" Hurdle said Thursday. "Well, I think what we've tried to do here as an organization is find different ways to connect with the players, whether it be the mental, whether it be the physical, to find different ways to develop trust, or initiate trust. "I think over time we've been able to initiate some trust with Pedro since I've been here through a very challenging last season." Alvarez finished 2011 with a .191 average over 235 at-bats. He went yard four times and knocked in 19 runs. The third baseman also had 80 strikeouts and 24 walks. This season, Alvarez has 241 at-bats coming into Thursday's game. His average is up to .237, and he's already hit 15 long balls and picked up 48 RBIs. His 82 strikeouts and 27 walks are similar to last year. "Pedro going out wasn't an option," Hurdle said. "We were going to find a way, and I just stayed confident of the fact that he was going to find a way. Yeah, it didn't look good. There was times it didn't look good at all. But again, you got to believe in things other people don't believe in. You got to believe in things you can't see. "The talent we're talking about, that run-producing type talent, doesn't come along very often. You need to explore and give every opportunity for it to play out."
Utlityman Yamaico Navarro arrested for DUI
PITTSBURGH -- Yamaico Navarro, a utilityman with the Pirates for the first two months of the season, spent Wednesday night in an Indianapolis jail after being arrested for driving under the influence.In a joint statement issued Thursday evening, the Pirates and their Triple-A affiliate both indicated Navarro will face discipline. Neal Huntington and Cal Burleson, general managers of the Pirates and Indians, respectively, issued this joint statement: "The Indianapolis Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates regret that Yamaico Navarro was arrested for driving under the influence in Indianapolis on Wednesday night. We are thankful that this situation did not result in injury to anyone or in damage to any property. Yamaico Navarro has spent one night in jail, and will be disciplined upon his release. The Pirates are currently working through the process of that discipline. Yamaico Navarro will be offered an evaluation and appropriate counseling by the Pittsburgh Pirates in an effort to see that this situation does not occur again." Since being optioned to Indianapolis, Navarro has hit .286 in 30 games divided among six different positions. In 25 games with the Pirates, the 24-year-old Dominican native batted .178, with a home run and four RBIs in 45 at-bats.
Hurdle likens Bucs to 2007 Rockies team
PITTSBURGH -- It's no secret that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been to the World Series. He led the Rockies there in 2007, and on Thursday the skipper made comparisons between that team and the 2012 Pirates."We had a group of men that had kind of played ball coming up together," Hurdle said. "They had experience winning together through the Minor Leagues, and then they experienced getting beat up in the big leagues. "As we added a couple players -- we still had a young rotation -- you kind of saw them just grow up right in front of your eyes. I haven't been here that long, but it's kind of similar to here. I've watched some guys kind of grow up in the last year and a half." Hurdle has talked that way about All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the NL Player of the Month in June, who's hitting a Major League-leading .360 to go along with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs. It's also likely that Hurdle, now in his second year as the Pirates' manager, feels that way about homegrown players Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. "It's kind of like the first time you throw your keys to your kid and say, 'Let's go for a ride,'" Hurdle said. "Do you buckle in, put on a helmet and close your eyes and cross yourself, or do you just throw them the keys and just say, 'Hey, take me for a ride'?"
Pirates among the league's best at making a comeback
PITTSBURGH -- The Astros scored first in the first three games they've played in Pittsburgh this week, but in each one it hasn't led them to a win.Call it bad timing. Their opponent, the Pirates, have 23 comeback wins this season, the third most in baseball. "I think we just keep it in mind that, you know, there's still innings to play. You never know what can happen," Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle said before Thursday's series finale. Only the Yankees and Marlins have more comeback wins than Pittsburgh this season, with 26 and 24, respectively. The largest deficit the Pirates have overcome is four runs -- and they have done that twice, on May 21 vs. the Mets and in the second game of this Houston series. Before jumping on Johan Santana's 4-0 lead on May 21, the Pirates had lost 160 consecutive games when trailing by at least four runs, going back to June 1, 2009. That had been the second-longest such streak in Major League history, exceeded only a century ago by the 178 consecutive losses by the 1906-1910 Washington Senators. "In the last two games, we've come back from three runs down, four runs down," Hurdle said. "I do think that adds some confidence to your offense as you continue to play games."
In his last five games, Andrew McCutchen is 14-for-21 with 11 runs, six RBIs and two home runs. The center fielder is the first Pirates player since Honus Wagner in 1904 to have 14 hits and 11 runs in a five-game stretch, according to Elias Sports Bureau. In June of that year, the Hall of Famer had 15 hits and 11 runs. The Pirates have scored at least four runs in nine straight games for the first time since August 2005. The last time they scored four or more in 10 straight games was September 2003. Neil Walker enters Thursday riding an eight-game hitting streak. He has hit .424 and scored 11 runs during that span.
The Last Word
"I love rolls. Kaiser, sesame-seed, sourdough. This is a pretty good roll, too."
-- Pirates relief pitcher Jason Grilli, talking about the Bucs' seven wins in eight games heading into Thursday night's affair against the Astros at PNC Park.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. 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.