Bucs' fastball prowess noted by Cardinals

Bucs' fastball prowess noted by Cardinals

CHICAGO -- The Pirates' dugout was abuzz late Monday afternoon in St. Louis when hard-throwing right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez entered a one-run game.

Pittsburgh's players were not fired up because Martinez was firing off his 99-mph fastball; they were fired up because he was not.

By manager Clint Hurdle's actual count, Martinez and comparable fireballer Trevor Rosenthal, the closer who followed him to the mound, at one point delivered 17 consecutive breaking pitches.

"Word has gotten around that we can hit fastballs," Hurdle said Friday. "These are things we've got to be aware of, the different ways we're being approached."

Obviously, every Major Leaguer can hit a fastball. As a team, however, the Pirates are reputed -- and supported by metrics -- as one of the best. Naturally, teams are going to throw them something different in key situations.

Martinez had inherited a 5-4 lead in the eighth.

"He threw two fastballs, then breaking balls the rest of the inning," Hurdle said. "Their two big guys, who can both throw north of 95, threw 19 straight breaking balls. That was a different look for us -- two guys with elite fastballs start throwing other stuff."

Each of the two relievers put up a zero, saving the 5-4 victory that began the Cardinals' three-game sweep.

Worth noting

• Charlie Morton threw a bullpen session on Friday, and he's next scheduled for a second simulated game on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Pedro Alvarez (left foot sprain) and Travis Snider (left hamstring) were both available to hit off the bench Friday while continuing to work their way back to being field-ready.

• Josh Harrison, the National League Player of the Month for August, became the second Pirates player this season to earn the monthly award (Andrew McCutchen, June). The last time the Bucs had two position players take home monthly honors was in 1990 -- Bobby Bonilla in April and Barry Bonds in July.

First number, last word

19: Pittsburgh's franchise record for home runs by a second baseman, by Bill Mazeroski in 1958. Neil Walker had 18 entering Friday's series opener at Wrigley Field, where has six career long balls.

"A month is a long time to be good. It's one of the benchmarks to having a good season. But you can have a really good season and not win one of these awards."
-- Hurdle, on Harrison's Player of the Month recognition for August.

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