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Three Days in ... PittsburghIn a series...

Three Days in ... Pittsburgh

In a series that will generate huge interest in the Joe Girardi and Jim Tracy families, the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates play next weekend to stave off postseason elimination.

The Pirates hadn’t had a winning season since 1992, so they spent some money in the off-season, traded for first baseman Sean Casey, switched managers and are headed for their second 100-loss season in six years. But, at least they tried.

The Marlins, still pouting over their ballpark, lopped $45 million from the payroll, and now wonder from where the rumors they’ll deal Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera come.

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The Pirates have the worst pitching staff in the National League. The Marlins have the worst defense and the second-to-worst offense. Between them, they have won one series.

It’s sort of like baseball, without the hope.

The probables:

Friday: Willis vs. Victor Santos

Saturday: Scott Olsen vs. Zach Duke

Sunday: Brian Moehler vs. Ian Snell

Good News, It’s ... Twins!

The Dodgers have their eye on a pair of Twin outfielders, Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart, who are in the final seasons of their contracts and probably will be dealt as the suddenly pitching-thin Twins plummet in the American League Central.

Scouts say both have lost ground in the outfield, though their range might improve, given a fresh start in a close division race. That’s assuming, of course, the Dodgers have such a thing to offer.

The Dodgers also are looking at Pirate first baseman-outfielder Craig Wilson.

A Few Minutes With ... Steve Finley

Sixty-one at-bats into his first season as an Angel discard, Steve Finley isn’t the jumpy, popup hitter he was in his only season as an Angel.

Finley, now a San Francisco Giant, no longer has to start his swing between pitches, because his shoulder is healthy and, as a result, his bat speed is better. It is particularly apparent on inside fastballs.

“I couldn’t turn on the inside pitch,” he said. “I can do that this year.... With that confidence, I can keep my eye on the outside part of the plate and stay on those balls.”

Finley squeezes in plate appearances around Barry Bonds, Randy Winn and Moises Alou, not that difficult considering the corner guys are so banged up they rarely get more than halfway to first base on a fly ball to the outfield.

Before, He Was in ... Misery

Speaking of reborn Angels, Scott Spiezio -- the skinny version -- could be saving his career in St. Louis.

Sporting a bouncy, Cardinal-red soul patch that makes him look as if he’s drooling Kool-Aid, Spiezio replaced ailing Scott Rolen on April 25 and over the next nine games was 11 for 32 with two home runs and eight runs batted in.

50 Is the New...30

At the end of April, 14 hitters were on pace for 50 home runs, and several more were close.

Since 2002, the season before baseball began testing for steroids and a year after Bonds hit 73, only two players -- Alex Rodriguez in 2002 and Andruw Jones in 2005 -- have hit as many as 50.

Where have all the pitchers gone? Not to Kansas City. Royal starters have more walks than strikeouts, something that hasn’t been done over a full season for at least five years.

One Last Thing From ... Jim Tracy

After another imprecise start by Oliver Perez last week in Chicago, to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “I did not see Oliver pitch. I saw Oliver just throwing the baseball into infinity.”


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