ST. LOUIS -- In the Pirates' first two cracks at a seminal 82nd win to secure their first winning season in 21, co-aces Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett each lasted only three innings.
Bad timing for really bad starts, adding up to a bad sign? Or just parallel examples of the vagaries of any baseball season?
Voting for the latter, manager Clint Hurdle is already anticipating the tandem's next appearances. They will come in doubly hostile territory, Rangers Ballpark against Texas in a late-season Interleague series.
"I'm looking forward to seeing them pitch again," Hurdle said. "Those guys are good pitchers, and they take us to a good place when they're on the mound. They've shown the resiliency to bounce back."
Liriano has shown a particular knack for following his worst starts with his best. The left-hander had two mishaps prior to the most recent on Wednesday in Milwaukee, and he recovered from those two -- on Aug. 9 and 24 -- with follow ups in which he totaled 17 innings and allowed six hits and one run.
"I'm not changing what I did before," Liriano said. "Time to get ready for the next start, forget what happened in the last one and move forward."
"Numbers-wise, both guys are still really solid," Hurdle said. "Does the league catch up to you? It can -- but it doesn't have to."
There is also this: Both ex-American Leaguers have good track records in the Rangers' park; Liriano is 3-1 and has given up one homer in 31 2/3 innings there, while Burnett is 2-1, with a slightly higher (4.00) ERA.
Marte activated from DL, but gripping bat an issue
ST. LOUIS -- Starling Marte was activated from the 15-day disabled list by the Pirates prior to Saturday night's game against the Cardinals -- but his initial availability figures to be quite limited.
Without the restriction of a 25-man roster, there was no practical reason to keep the left fielder on the DL. However, given the results of recent workouts, Marte still has difficulty gripping a bat with his bruised right hand.
Still, he could be a pinch-running weapon, and could also play as a late-game defensive replacement. Both could be assets in close games.
First number, last word
12-8: An unlikely popular final score on the Pirates' 2013 ledger; they beat the Giants by that count of June 12, and lost to the Brewers (April 30) and the Cardinals (Friday night).
"You don't want anyone to be human in September. You want them to be superhuman. Be uncommon, not common." -- Hurdle, on the demands of the pennant race's bell lap.
• Burnett apparently had no day-after issues from the Yadier Molina comebacker that nailed the little finger of his pitching hand in the third inning of Friday night's game.
"It's good," Burnett said, holding up the pinkie. "Just a bruise. Thanks for asking."
• Andrew McCutchen has a new nickname in the clubhouse. Teammates have begun calling him "Hutchinson" -- a reference to McCutchen's Twitter encounter with a fan who somewhat recognized him but thought he was someone named "Hutchinson."
• The Bucs are in a holding pattern with Wandy Rodriguez, following his three-inning Friday night start in Indianapolis. The lefty reported feeling natural day-after soreness, and his next step will be based on how he feels Sunday.
Hurdle would clearly prefer for Rodriguez to make another competitive rehab appearance, and stretch out to 75 pitches. A Thursday start for Class A West Virginia, if the Power is still alive in the Sally League playoffs, is the manager's top choice.
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.