STL@PIT Gm3: Hurdle on bumper crop of young pitching

PITTSBURGH -- In 2007, when his Rockies made that fabulous late-season run all the way into the World Series, Clint Hurdle got over a manager's typical distrust of young, untested pitchers. As that Colorado team won 14 of its last 15 games, major roles were played by Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales, neither of whom checked in until the season's second half.

That reassuring experience influenced Hurdle, and consequently has had a tremendous impact on the 2013 Pirates. Rookies were featured in the bullpen overhaul while helping the rotation withstand some major casualties in the regular season, and they continue to play a large role in the postseason.

Relievers Bryan Morris and Justin Wilson combined for 113 appearances, with 21 holds between them. Gerrit Cole has 11 wins, including in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday in St. Louis. Jeff Locke, who was not officially a rookie but fell one inning shy of that designation, carried the club in the first half through the loss of another lefty, veteran Wandy Rodriguez.

In Hurdle's view, the Pirates just shared the Major League-wide proliferation of high-ceiling pitching prospects, which has been on the rise for years.

"For me, we're in the sixth year of it," Hurdle said. "In Colorado [in 2007] ... Morales and Jimenez were integral parts of that rotation, getting us in the playoffs and World Series. I think this part of the game has continued to have a little more efficient HOV lane as far as getting players to the big leagues. Other teams have them just as well."

The Bucs' NLDS opponents certainly do. The Cardinals enlisted 10 rookie pitchers this season, including 15-game winner Shelby Miller and Game 4 starter Michael Wacha.

"We've seen some position players make the transition [to the Majors] as well, but we've never before seen the volume of pitchers you're seeing now," Hurdle said. "It's been as strong as it's been in a long time."

Bucs, Cards prepare for potential shadows at PNC

STL@PIT: Hurdle on advantages to playing in PNC Park

PITTSBURGH -- Have a baseball game start at an unusual afternoon hour, and invariably questions will be raised about potential visibility problems.

The issue was doubly intriguing for the National League Division Series games at PNC Park. Game 3 began at 4:30 p.m. ET -- a time at which Monday's Game 4 -- which is, weather permitting, scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch (on TBS) -- would be in the middle innings.

Outfielders looking for fly balls and batters looking for spin of pitches could have issues early in the game. The Pittsburgh sun sets behind the first-base stands, and on a clear day at this time of the year, shadows bisect the infield at about 4 p.m.

Unlike in most ballparks, in which the sun field is right, left fielders Starling Marte of the Pirates and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals will be most challenged.

The home manager did not expect shadows to be a factor in either game.

"We were out there running around [during Saturday's workout] trying to figure out how you were going to play," Clint Hurdle said. "I don't think it's the same as earlier in the season. I think we're going to be fine. From an outfield standpoint, the shadows will not be too challenging."

First number, last word

21-23: Pirates' all-time home record in postseason games, entering Games 3-4 of this National League Division Series.

"Today's game doesn't dilute the importance of [Monday's] game. A lot rides on every game we play. Our careers depend on it." -- Right-hander Charlie Morton, on his Game 4 start and whether he'll make it with his club leading or trailing, 2-1

Worth noting

• Game 2 of the NLDS between the Pirates and the Cardinals earned the highest rating of 2013 for a game broadcast on MLB Network, and the third-highest overall rating in the network's history.

• Somewhat surprisingly -- given the frequency of their postseason appearances until the 21-year silence -- the Bucs entered Sunday's Game 3 trying to win consecutive home playoff games for the first time since Games 3-4 of the 1971 World Series against the Orioles.