By John Perrotto
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked after one of the Pirates’ more exhilarating wins of the season Sunday night if he thought his team was special.
The answer was no.
Now that didn’t mean that Hurdle doesn’t like his team or didn’t think the Pirates rallying to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-6 at PNC Park was a good win.
It’s just that Hurdle has become accustomed to the kind of performance like Sunday night when the Pirates fell behind 5-1 in the top of the fifth inning, cut it to 5-3 in the bottom half on Andrew McCutchen’s two-run homer then surged ahead 12-5 with a nine-run seventh inning.
“I think people who cover this team, people who watch this team have seen this for a few years now … 2013, 2014, 2015,” Hurdle said. “This is who we are. This is how we play. Our guys just keep playing the game. They keep meeting the demands of the game.
“It’s a culture that’s been created here. It’s an easy place to fit. If you can’t play here then you better go play in an independent league because you’ve got to be an independent. Our guys are welcoming. They’re willing to share information. Most importantly, they want to win and that rubs off on everybody.”
The most impressive about the seventh inning, which was capped by rookie shortstop Jung Ho Kang’s three-run home run, was that all but one batter in the Pirates’ lineup reached base. The guy who didn’t, Neil Walker, contributed with a sacrifice fly.
On a night when closer Mark Melancon and set-up reliever Joakim Soria were both unavailable after each threw a combined 39 pitches over the previous two games, two of the bullpen’s lesser lights did an outstanding job on a night when starter Charlie Morton got rocked for five runs and 10 hits in five innings
Arquimedes Caminero followed Morton and pitched two scoreless innings for the win. After Jared Hughes got nicked for a solo home run in the eighth inning, left-hander Antonio Bastardo finished with a perfect ninth.
“This win really show the kind of team we have,” Caminero said “Everybody picks everybody up. Everyone makes a contribution.”
— McCutchen continued his hot hitting by going 2-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. He is hitting .455 (15-for-33) with 13 RBIs and 12 runs scored in his last 10 games. He is also hitting .339 in 80 games since May 7, raising his batting average from .188 to .301.
“I don’t know, it’s so hard for me to say,” McCutchen said when asked if he could ever remember a better stretch of hitting in his seven-year career. “I still don’t think I’m completely where I want to be. I just still think I’m going to be better before the season is over.”
–Shortstop Jordy Mercer is recovering so well from his knee injury that he will begin a minor league rehab assignment earlier than expected.
Mercer will start playing Tuesday night for Class AAA Indianapolis, three days earlier than originally planned. Third baseman Josh Harrison will also begin his rehab for Indy the same night.
Mercer has been on the disabled list since July 20 with a sprained left knee, an injury originally expected to sideline him until sometime in September. However, the Pirates gave him to OK to start playing after watching him get through lateral movement drills without incident during the weekend.
Harrison has been out since July 6 with a torn ligament in his left thumb that required surgery.
“I didn’t think it would respond the way it has responded to the rehab” Mercer said before the game. “We’ve extended it and really pushed it. It’s responded really well.
“A lot of people that have seen me work out say that I’m ready. If they say that, and I feel good, we just decided I might as well go ahead and go, get some reps, get my feet wet, and start getting back in game shape.”
The Pirates don’t have an exact timetable for Mercer’s return. However, they won’t activate him until he shows he can play nine innings on back-to-back days.
Mercer also has no expectation for when he will be ready to step back into the Pirates’ lineup.
“I’ve done everything that I wanted to accomplish myself before going out (on rehab),” Mercer said. “I know it’s going to take some time when I get there. The knee is a little bit different and we’ve got to make sure I have no issues before I come back but it’s going to be good just to get back out on the field.”
–Right-hander A.J. Burnett played catch Saturday and Sunday. It was first step of Burnett’s rehab from a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow that has sidelined him since July 31.
–Right-handed reliever Rob Scahill, who has been on the DL since June 26 with a right forearm strain, will be examined by the team’s medical staff Monday in Pittsburgh.
He is tentatively set to move his rehab assignment to Double-A Altoona on Tuesday and pitch three innings that night. Scahill worked two scoreless innings Thursday for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates in his first outings.