Cole nearly goes distance, fans 10 Mets

Cole nearly goes distance, fans 10 Mets

PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole emerged victorious in a battle of electric young right arms Friday night, outdueling Noah Syndergaard and looking like one of the National League's top pitchers as the Pirates beat the Mets, 4-1, at PNC Park.

"It's the best performance I've seen him throw so far," Pirates catcher Chris Stewart said. "He just keeps getting better and better. The sky's the limit for him right now."

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Morton to make 2015 debut Monday

Morton to make 2015 debut Monday

PITTSBURGH -- After three rehab starts, Pirates hurler Charlie Morton is back. At least, he will be.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said that Morton will start his first game of the 2015 season against the Marlins on Monday at PNC Park. Hurdle also said Vance Worley, who has made seven starts this year but pitched out of the bullpen Tuesday, will stay in a reliever role upon Morton's return.

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John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Just shy of complete game, Cole in complete control

Catcher Stewart, manager Hurdle praise young righty for career-best 8 1/3-inning effort

Just shy of complete game, Cole in complete control

PITTSBURGH -- Even if Gerrit Cole had not walked Eric Campbell on a full-count fastball with one out in the ninth inning, there's no guarantee he would have completed Friday night's 4-1 win over the Mets.

Even if Campbell had swung and missed for Cole's 11th strikeout or grounded into an easy out, it would have been a tough decision for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Cole is a key piece of the Bucs' present and their future, went to the disabled list twice last season and taxed his right arm with 111 pitches vs. New York.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Awkward slide doesn't diminish Kang's impact

Awkward slide doesn't diminish Kang's impact

PITTSBURGH -- Beating the throw wasn't an issue. But sticking the landing was.

On a high fly ball along the left-field line in the sixth inning of Friday night's 4-1 win over the Mets, Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang readied himself to tag up at third base and make a dash for the plate.

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John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Burnett tasked with outdueling Harvey

Burnett tasked with outdueling Harvey

Matt Harvey is winless in his last two starts despite holding opposing hitters scoreless over 15 innings combined. Harvey, one of baseball's top pitchers, looks to capture that elusive sixth win of the 2015 campaign against A.J. Burnett and the Pirates on Saturday at PNC Park.

Harvey is in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, but he has returned to dominant form. The 6-foot-4 right-hander boasts a 1.98 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and 56 strikeouts this year. Harvey won't be the only shining starter taking the mound, though.

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John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCutchen's paystub posted online

McCutchen's paystub posted online

PITTSBURGH -- The Internet got a closer look into Andrew McCutchen's personal finances Thursday, when a picture of his paystub was posted to Reddit.com and a redacted version was posted on the sports blog Deadspin.

The picture reveals the details of the most recent deposit into McCutchen's bank account. The Pirates outfielder said the stub was left behind in the visitor's clubhouse at Wrigley Field in Chicago, but he didn't remember how he lost track of it.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs ready to dig out of another early hole

After bouncing back from rough start in 2014, Pirates know what lies ahead

Bucs ready to dig out of another early hole

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates entered this season no longer satisfied with the thought of being a Wild Card team. They set their sights higher, then stumbled out of the gate too long to simply write it off as a slow start.

If the narrative sounds familiar, that's because it played out almost the same way last year. Except the Pirates were technically in worse shape then, having carried a 17-23 record through their first 40 games.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates hope fortunes in close games can change

Pirates hope fortunes in close games can change

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates played out an unfortunately familiar script for 13 innings Wednesday night at PNC Park.

They fell behind. They battled back. They pitched well. And they lost, this time to the Twins by one run, 4-3.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Locke, bullpen have big night despite loss

Locke, bullpen have big night despite loss

PITTSBURGH -- After a leadoff double by Danny Santana and a single by Joe Mauer, Pirates starter Jeff Locke walked third baseman Trevor Plouffe to load the bases in the top of the first of Wednesday night's game against the Twins.

Then, Torii Hunter unloaded them with a three-run double.

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John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates rally, but fall short in 13 innings to Twins

Pirates rally, but fall short in 13 innings to Twins

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Mauer picked the right moment for his first home run of the season, ripping a solo shot to right field in the 13th inning and sending the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Wednesday night.

The Twins jumped out to a three-run lead in the first but let the Pirates creep back into the game before trading zeros for three extra frames. Mauer finally broke through against Pirates lefty Antonio Bastardo, lining an 0-1 pitch into the right-field stands, his first homer since Aug. 17.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Justice: Good times are coming for the Pirates

Pirates, A's and Red Sox have talent, leadership to bounce back

Justice: Good times are coming for the Pirates

Sure, it's OK to fret about the Pirates and A's if those are your teams. Likewise, the Red Sox. You think the people in charge aren't fretting? Sure, they are. As Giants manager Bruce Bochy puts it, "You can't win your division in April, but you can sure lose it."

Besides that, it's not early anymore. In some cases, six weeks is plenty of time to understand what a team is or isn't.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cervelli passes concussion tests, plays vs. Twins

Cervelli passes concussion tests, plays vs. Twins

PITTSBURGH -- After leaving Tuesday's game early for precautionary reasons, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli passed a full battery of tests to determine his availability for Wednesday night's game at PNC Park.

Cervelli took a ball off his mask in the fifth inning before being replaced by backup catcher Chris Stewart during the Pirates' 8-5 loss to the Twins on Tuesday night. He was evaluated after the game and showed up Wednesday afternoon for further pregame testing.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Alvarez's HR lands in boat on Allegheny River

Alvarez's HR lands in boat on Allegheny River

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez has hit a lot of home runs in his life -- 111 of them in the Majors, 46 in the Minors, 49 at Vanderbilt University and countless others before then.

But Tuesday night was a first for Alvarez and a rare occurrence at PNC Park. Alvarez launched a home run all the way out of the ballpark during the Pirates' 8-5 loss to the Twins, ripping a solo shot that landed in a boat moored in the Allegheny River.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Liriano struggles against former team

Liriano struggles against former team

PITTSBURGH -- After seeing a second home run land in the PNC Park seats, fans started to boo Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano.

It was the kind of performance Liriano delivered often at the end of his time in Minnesota.

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John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates' rally falls just short against Twins

Pirates' rally falls just short against Twins

PITTSBURGH -- The Twins used a six-run second inning to build up a big lead against former Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano and held on to beat the Pirates, 8-5, at PNC Park on Tuesday night.

Liriano, who pitched for the Twins from 2005-12, gave up seven runs on five hits, including two homers, in only two innings of work. Minnesota sent nine batters to the plate in the second, when Joe Mauer drove in three runs on a single to left and Trevor Plouffe added two more with a homer to left-center field.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates add Tabata to outfield mix

Young vet up from Triple-A; Boscan optioned as Sellers moves to 60-day DL

Pirates add Tabata to outfield mix

PITTSBURGH -- General manager Neal Huntington recently admitted that Jose Tabata's return to the big leagues might have to come elsewhere, but he made it clear that he hoped to see the outfielder in a Pirates uniform again.

The Pirates gave Tabata another shot Tuesday, selecting his contract from Triple-A Indianapolis and placing him on the active roster.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates believe Mercer's finding his form

Pirates believe Mercer's finding his form

PITTSBURGH -- Shortstop Jordy Mercer got off to a slow start last season, carrying a .227 average into July, before taking off and playing at a high level in the second half.

The Pirates believe Mercer, off to another sluggish start at the plate, is getting close to recapturing his form again.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates back to patient approach at the plate

Pittsburgh offense has regained 2014 form over past two weeks

Pirates back to patient approach at the plate

PITTSBURGH -- Before the Pirates left for Philadelphia to open a road trip last week, general manager Neal Huntington essentially boiled down the state of his club's offense to this: They had the right players doing the wrong things.

But over the past two weeks, the Pirates have occasionally performed like the offensive club they were expected to be. At the very least, they've performed more like the offensive club they were a year ago.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Burnett dazzles again in proclaimed final season

Veteran righty acknowledges that adjustments have improved his results

Burnett dazzles again in proclaimed final season

CHICAGO -- Unlike Shelby Miller 1,200 miles away, A.J. Burnett didn't pose a no-hit threat. He gave up a knock to his second hitter of the game. But 24 batters later, the Cubs had only two other hits, and Burnett's ERA (1.38) was a tick behind Miller's (1.33) as the National League's lowest.

How's that for a farewell tour? Burnett didn't want people to make a big deal of what he proclaimed his final season. But he's turning it into a very big deal himself.

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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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harrison's 'hustle double' energizes Bucs' offense

Third baseman goes on to score Pirates' first run on Cervelli's single

Harrison's 'hustle double' energizes Bucs' offense

CHICAGO -- In hustling out a leg double in the fifth inning of a scoreless game, Josh Harrison did more than just put himself in position to score the winning run Sunday.

By contributing that big hit toward the Bucs' getaway 3-0 triumph over the Cubs, Harrison brought to an end a bizarre trend.

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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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bucs top Cubs behind Burnett's gem

Bucs top Cubs behind Burnett's gem

CHICAGO -- A.J. Burnett is not about to climb off the magic carpet carrying him to the end of his line.

Continuing to sparkle in what he has said would be his final season, Burnett went the first seven innings Sunday as the Pirates avoided a sweep by the Cubs with a 3-0 victory at Wrigley Field. The loss snapped the Cubs' six-game winning streak, their longest since 2011.

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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 and on his podcast. Sarah Trotto is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Statcast: McCutchen takes near-perfect route

Outfielder makes sliding catch, doubles up runner

Statcast: McCutchen takes near-perfect route

Former Gold Glove winner Andrew McCutchen made yet another highlight-reel play in the Pirates' 3-0 victory over the Cubs on Sunday, made possible only by taking a nearly perfect route to the ball.

No, really, it was almost perfect.

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Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Watch Andrew McCutchen's exemplary double play assist

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Watch Andrew McCutchen's exemplary double play assist

In the bottom of the second inning of the Pirates' 3-0 win over the Cubs on Sunday, Chris Coghlan popped a pitch from A.J. Burnett into shallow center field. Andrew McCutchen zoomed in to make a sliding catch -- and then he sprang right back up, launched the ball to Pedro Alvarez at first and nabbed Miguel Montero for the double play.

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Pitch count catches up with Cole vs. Cubs

Right-hander's solid start falls short against Lester

Pitch count catches up with Cole vs. Cubs

CHICAGO -- Usually, Gerrit Cole can run through his outings -- good or bad -- with a lot of words and introspection.

This was not one of those occasions. His six innings Saturday in the Bucs' 4-1 loss to Jon Lester and the Cubs didn't leave him at a loss for words, just left him with very few.

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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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates can't muster much offense vs. Lester

Pirates can't muster much offense vs. Lester

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester went one inning longer and allowed one run less than Gerrit Cole.

That's all the Cubs needed Saturday to run their winning streak to six with a 4-1 victory over the Pirates. It is the team's longest victory run since seven straight July 31-Aug. 6, 2011.

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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 and on his podcast. Sarah Trotto is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lack of clutch hitting frustrates Hurdle, Pirates

Bucs go 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position

Lack of clutch hitting frustrates Hurdle, Pirates

CHICAGO -- If Clint Hurdle had a fuse, one had the sense by the end of Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Cubs that he'd be getting down to the frayed end of it. He is a manager with boundless patience for and confidence in his players but those, too, appeared to be running low.

Gerrit Cole blamed himself. Several teammates had a little blame for home-plate umpire Chris Segal. But Hurdle couldn't help looking at the day's base traffic.

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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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.