Alvarez Hitting Fifth to Take Pressure off; Tabata to get him out of the Spotlight

Tonight will mark the third straight game in a row that Manager Clint Hurdle has ran out the same lineup. Starting on Thursday, Hurdle inserted Pedro Alvarez into the fifth spot after he was benched for several days to “clear the deck”. And Jose Tabata was bumped down to the sixth spot instead of batting near the top order.

So far, Hurdle is liking what he’s seen from it. The Pirates have won each of their last two games.

“I’m trying to get Pedro out of the fourth hole to just take some pressure [off],” Hurdle said. “The same way with Tabata. He’s a guy that profiles to be a top of the order guy. Unfortunately the numbers at this point in time haven’t played out that way. Let’s get him out of that position, out of the spotlight, give him a chance to not have that responsibility and just go up there and hit what he sees…[Rod] Barajas and [Clint] Barmes, now that they’re sparking we can score a run down at the bottom as well with Tabby’s speed in front of those guys.”


— Pirates lineup: Alex Presley 7, Neil Walker 4, Andrew McCutchen 8, Garrett Jones 3, Pedro Alvarez 5, Jose Tabata 9, Rod Barajas 2, Clint Barmes 6, James McDonald 1

— Royals lineup: Alex Gordon 7, Yuniesky Betancourt 4, Billy Butler 3, Mike Moustakas 5, Jeff Francoeur 8, Eric Hosmer 9, Brayan Pena 2, Alicedes Escobar 6, Vin Mazzaro 1


— The Pirates have won four of their last five and 10 of their last 13 games. They currently are just two games out of first place in the National League Central. The Pirates have posted the best record in the ML since May 25 (10-3).

— The Pirates are 5-0 at home on Saturday nights. Alex Presley (.333) and Neil Walker (.303) have been swinging hot bats on Saturdays at PNC Park.

— Beginning with his start on April 18, James McDonald’s 1.81 ERA is the lowest among all starters in the Major Leagues (minimum of eight starts). He’s posted a 1.54 ERA at PNC  in five starts last month and has not surrendered more than three runs in any of his first 11 assignments. McDonald’s 2.14 ERA is second-best in the NL.