The Sports Xchange

MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - INSIDE PITCH

DETROIT -- Andrew McCutchen's rib fracture could have been a devastating blow to the Pittsburgh Pirates' postseason chances. Thanks to their outfield depth, they have survived the loss of their best player.

Pittsburgh has gone 5-5 since McCutchen was injured after taking a big cut against Arizona. He's eligible to come off the disabled list on Aug. 19.

The biggest beneficiary in terms of playing time, left fielder Travis Snider, went on a power display during the four-game series against Detroit this week with three home runs and seven RBIs. Snider reached on a double and a walk during Pittsburgh's 5-2 loss on Thursday.

"He's provided us offense, which we've looked for from a number of different people in Andrew's absence," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's always played solid defense, whichever corner we've had him in. The bat production, the driving in runs and scoring runs, it's given us a shot in the arm at a very important time."

The Pirates haven't suffered defensively, either, because Starling Marte simply moved over to his natural position. He has batted .314 during August. Rookie right fielder Gregory Polanco is batting .306 with nine runs scored, a homer and eight RBIs this month. He's also capable of playing center field.

"I've never been in a situation like this before where I've had a center fielder go down and another pure center fielder to step right in," Hurdle said. "If this one (Marte) would need a day off, I've got another pure center fielder I can plug right in. We're three-deep in that position, with three very skilled performers at that position."

Marte, who plays left field when McCutchen is healthy, has gotten a mental boost from going back to his old spot.

"It's got to be fun for Marte to revisit something that you've done for such a long period of time," Hurdle said. "The very good outfielders say that it's the best place to play because you have the best look. You see the pitches and how they break and you can read the ball coming off the bat easier."


MLB Team Report - Pittsburgh Pirates - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 64-57

STREAKS: Lost two

NEXT: Pirates (RHP Charlie Morton, 5-11, 3.62 ERA) at Nationals (RHP Tanner Roark, 11-7, 2.86 ERA)


--LHP Francisco Liriano was outdueled by Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer on Thursday as his won-loss record dropped to 3-9. Liriano, who allowed two runs and three hits in six innings, did not give up a hit until J.D. Martinez's leadoff homer in the fifth inning. He issued a bases-loaded walk to Martinez the following inning. "He gave us the outing we needed to have a shot," manager Clint Hurdle said.

--SS Jordy Mercer left Thursday's game during the seventh inning with tightness in his right forearm. His status for the weekend series at Washington is questionable. Mercer has made 49 consecutive starts at shortstop, the longest by a Pirates shortstop since Jack Wilson started 96 straight in 2005. Josh Harrison moved from third to short to replace him.

--2B Neil Walker could be back in the starting lineup Friday. Walker, who has been battling lower back tightness throughout the month, went through a full workout Thursday and was available to pinch hit. Walker's last at-bat was a pinch-hitting appearance Saturday. "We felt he was a usable player off the bench," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're optimistic he'll be more than that (Friday)."