Brad Lincoln will take the bump today in Cleveland for what very well could be a make it or break it start for him. The right-hander is set to make his fourth start of the season, third in a row. Over his last two starts, Lincoln has struggled and allowed nine runs over 8.1 innings.

With Jeff Karstens on the brink of returning from the DL and several prospects in Triple-A knocking on the door, I asked Manager Clint Hurdle this morning on the importance of this start and to prove he belongs in the rotation.

“It’s more along the lines that Brad needs to pitch well,” Hurdle said. “That’s the only focus point here. It’s not about anything other then Brad pitching the way that he’s capable of pitching. That will take us where we need to go and obviously with everything that’s going on organizationally. We haven’t; seen the guy that we saw for most part of the season the last two starts. He’s been encouraged to go out there and give us everything he’s got for as long as he’s got. There’s no pace. There’s no don’t try and pace yourself. Don’t look to go five innings. Give us everything you’ve got. We’ve got a day off tomorrow. We’ve got a full bullpen. Let’s get after it.”

The former first round pick threw 87 pitches in his last outing in Baltimore, 66 in the start prior. Hurdle said he needs to not worry about a certain pitch count or inning limit, to just go out there and be aggressive for as long as he can.

“Hard as you can for as long as you can,” Hurdle said. “There is a mentality within a team that nobody wants to be the weakest link so at the same time he’s thinking, ‘I don’t want to go out there and pitch three innings and just gas it out and then you’ve got to go to the bullpen for six.’ And I understand that and I appreciate that. That’s why we brought Brad, Ray [Searage] and I did, to talk to him. To be transparent with him. We understand that we’re best served by you going out there and just getting after it. Let’s reignite that fastball that we saw for the first two months of the season. The movement of the fastball. The depth of the tilt of the slider, the breaking ball. I think by him trying to calm things down and give us five innings, the intangible, just the dynamic of it all kind of worn down some.”

Lincoln has bounced back in forth from the bullpen and spot starting this season. In relief, Lincoln has been dominant posting just an 0.45 ERA over 20.0 innings while whiffing 23. The fact that this will be his third start in a row could help the fact that Lincoln is back into a routine and has been able to prepare himself.

“We’ll find out,” Hurdle said. “Time will tell today. You’ll see if he goes out and pitches a good game, part of it could attribute to the fact that it’s the third time he did it. I know that he’s in a routine. He’s been in a routine so we’ve at least eliminated that part of the issue.”

 

 

—Pedro Alvarez went deep yesterday twice for his third multi-homer game of his career and the first since 2010. His 10 long balls this season are ranked third most for at third baseman in the NL. He trails only David Freese (13) and Hanley Ramirez (11).

— The Pirates have scored 66 runs so far this month, tied for fourth-most among all NL teams. The Pirates are also tied for fourth among NL teams with 17 home runs in June.

— Jared Hughes has stranded each of his two inherited runners while also working 1.1 scoreless innings yesterday to lower his ERA to a league leading 1.93 among rookies. He also leads NL rookies in appearances (25) and is second with a .217 batting average against.

 

— Pirates lineup: Alex Presley 7, Neil Walker 4, Andrew McCutchen 8, Garrett Jones 9, Casey McGehee 3, Pedro Alvarez 5, Matt Hague 0, Clint Barmes 6, ,Michael McKenry 2 (Brad Lincoln 1)

— Indians lineup: Shin-Soo Choo 9, Asdrubal Cacrera 6, Jason Kipnis 4, Jose Lopez 0, Michael Brantley 8, Jack Hannahan 5, Johnny Damon 5, Casey Kotchman 3, Lou Marson 2 (Jeanmar Gomez 2)

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