*The Pittsburgh Pirates (56-38) coming out of the All-Star break, suffered a 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds (54-42) on Friday night. Francisco Liriano (9-4, 2.44 ERA) allowed 5 hits and 5 earned runs in 4.1 innings. The Reds sent nine batters to the plate for four runs in the fifth off Liriano, who had his shortest outing of the season.¬†Clint Hurdle attributed Lirano’s rough start to having nine days off. A.J. Burnett takes the mound today and Jeff Locke is scheduled to start Sunday and hasn’t pitched since July 8th.
*The Pirates go into this afternoon’s game with a 56-38 record, trailing the St. Louis Cardinals (58-36) by two games for the NL Central. The Cardinals have an MLB best +130 run differential, what a number there. The Pirates are at +44. The Pirates have a three game lead over the Reds for the top wildcard spot and are 8.5 games ahead of the surging LA Dodgers (48-47) who are currently third in the wildcard race.
*A lot of eyes are on Garrett Jones coming out of the All-Star break. He’s had a disappointing year to this point, batting .257/.306/.425 with 8 home runs, 35 RBIS on the season. The Pirates hope he can replicate what he did after the all-star break last year, when Jones hit .279/.337/.523 with 15 home runs and ¬†49 RBIs after the all-star break in 2012. Last night he went 2-3 with a double to left field, so that’s a start. There’s trade chatter of the Pirates looking at “insurance options” if Jones bat doesn’t wake up. Minnesota’s Justin Morneau is being floated around, though, many in the industry don’t see the fit.
*The rumor mill was buzzing last night when Alex Rios was pulled from the game and about 15 minutes later Pirates top shortstop prospect Alen Hanson was pulled. For now it was just a false alarm as the White Sox claim Rios was pulled for not running hard to first base.