The Sports Xchange

MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - INSIDE PITCH

DETROIT -- Josh Harrison is validating his surprise selection to the National League All-Star team with an even stronger second half.

The Pittsburgh Pirates' 27-year-old utility man entered Wednesday's action with the third-most hits by a National League player since the All-Star break. He had 35, trailing only Washington Nationals outfielder Denard Span (42) and the New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (36). He led the majors with 21 hits in August, including nine for extra bases.

Harrison had a double in five at-bats Wednesday and scored a run in the Pirates' 8-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

At the break, Harrison was hitting .297 with five home runs 28 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He now has a .316 average -- third in the league -- with 10 homers, 38 RBIs and 17 steals.

"There were some people who were sideways when he made the All-Star Game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "If you're not with him every day, I guess you can understand it. If you see him every day, you understand a lot better. The way he's responded after the All-Star Game has obviously added a little bit more credibility to everything he did before the All-Star Game and his selection to the team."

Harrison has mainly played at third base ahead of error-prone Pedro Alvarez this month. Overall, he has made 20 starts there, 13 at second base, 22 in left field and 23 in right field. He has moved around in the batting order but has settled in at the leadoff spot. His .337 average as a leadoff man tops the majors.

It has been a meteoric rise for a player who bounced between the majors and Triple-A the last three seasons and was left off last year's postseason roster.

"He's sparked us in a number of different ways," Hurdle said. "He's sparked rally after rally with a big hit and just by the fact he's been able to step in there and take on all pitchers. He's handled all the challenges out of the bullpen, the ones and twos (starters) -- he fights and scratches and claws, and he's put together a very defining season."


MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 64-56

STREAK: Lost one

NEXT: Pirates (LHP Francisco Liriano, 3-8, 3.82 ERA) at Tigers (RHP Max Scherzer, 13-4, 3.13 ERA)


--LHP Francisco Liriano will try to extend his streak of four consecutive quality starts when he faces Detroit on Thursday afternoon. Liriano has allowed just six earned runs in his last four outings. He has not fared well against Detroit in his career, posting a 5-8 record with a 5.99 ERA in 24 appearances. Tigers DH Victor Martinez is a particularly tough out for Liriano, as he is hitting .481 in 27 official at-bats against the lefty.

--C Russell Martin collected his 1,000th hit Wednesday with an RBI double in the third inning. Martin also extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He is batting .341 during that span. Manager Clint Hundle is showing confidence in Martin by batting him third, the spot where injured All-Star CF Andrew McCutchen usually bats.

--SS Clint Barmes will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona on Thursday. Barmes, sidelined since late June with a left groin strain, will not play a full game or on back-to-back days in the early portion of the assignment. He eventually will be elevated to Triple-A Indianapolis. "It's similar to spring training since it's been six weeks since he's played," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've written in pencil a schedule that will take us approximately to the end of the month."