—Los Angeles is missing its skipper and hitting coach tonight as a result of the suspension levied by Major League Baseball after benches cleared and blows were thrown in a game between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday. Don Mattingly received a one-game suspension, while MLB handed McGwire a two-game ban. Additionally, pitcher J.P. Howell and infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker were suspended for two games while pitcher Ronald Belisario will be out for one game. Schumaker is appealing the suspension, and will be available for tonight’s game in Pittsburgh.
–The Pirates (39-27) go for win no. 40 tonight at PNC Park, and a victory would give the Pirates 40 wins through 67 games—the earliest the Pirates will possibly have reached the 40-win plateau since the 1991 Buccos won 40 of their first 64 games.
–Jeff Locke makes his 14th start of the season tonight, and is now the only Pirate starter to have not missed his turn in the rotation in 2013. A.J. Burnett was slated to pitch tonight but was placed on the 15-day Disabled List yesterday with a Grade 1 tear in his right calf.
Locke has had next-to-zero luck against the Dodgers in his career, and is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA against L.A. lifetime. His last outing against the Dodgers saw him allow four runs over six innings at Dodgers Stadium on April 7. Prior, Locke last only three innings last September when the Dodgers rang Locke’s bell for three runs on five hits and two walks.
“For Locke, the biggest challenge in that lineup will be with Adrian Gonzalez if anybody,” Hurdle said. “From the time he saw him his first game, to make some adjustments and pitch him more efficiently.”
Besides Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig also poses a threat to Locke at the plate. The Cuban phenom posted a historic debut week with four home runs that included a solo shot, two-run homer, three-run bomb, and a grand slam.
“He’s coming out of the box out, he’s got a big swing, he covers the plate. When guys are out over the plate you try to provide some discomfort for them at times, whether that’s to spin, pitch him backwards, get the ball down and in, change eye levels,” Hurdle said about game-planning for Puig. “What does he fall prey to maybe when he gets outside of his comfort zone, what are the chase zones that you can go to, what are some of the weaknesses you might be able to expose.”
–Following Locke tomorrow is Brandon Cumpton, who is slated to make his major-league debut opposite Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw. The corresponding roster move will be made tomorrow afternoon before the game’s 4:05 start time. Cumpton is currently in Pittsburgh on the taxi squad.
“He’s developed organizationally, basically a three-pitch guy,” Hurdle said. “Strike-thrower, moves the ball to both sides of the plate, spins it, and changes speeds. He’s a competitor.”
–Aside from the Burnett injury, Starling Marte also sits out for the second consecutive game. Hurdle said Marte sustained his injury (strained oblique) on a headfirst slide in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s ballgame, and the outfielder remains day-to-day. Alex Presley takes his spot as the lead-off man and left-fielder tonight.
Russell Martin returns to the lineup tonight after his day off yesterday and hits second for the Pirates. Clint Barmes, who did not play the past two games, also is in the lineup hitting eighth and playing shortstop.
–On the rehabilitation front, Jeanmar Gomez made a start last night in Triple-A Indianapolis. Gomez threw three innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits over 64 pitches. Gomez was placed on the DL June 3 with a right forearm strain and inflammation.
1. Alex Presley LF
2. Russell Martin C
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Garrett Jones 1B
5. Neil Walker 2B
6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
7. Travis Snider RF
8. Clint Barmes SS
9. Jeff Locke P
1. Yasiel Puig RF
2. Nick Punto 3B
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Hanley Ramirez SS
5. Mark Ellis 2B
6. Andre Ethier CF
7. A.J. Ellis C
8. Jerry Hairston LF
9. Stephen Fife P