In celebration of Independence Day, the Pirates honored our nation's military during the third of their four-game set against the Houston Astros on Wednesday. It's Military Appreciation Day at PNC Park, and the club made up to four tickets available to each veteran and active member of the Armed Forces prior to the game's first pitch at 1:35 p.m. ET.
Also, injured Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton and his wife Cindy are hosting 40 military members and their families from Operation Troop Appreciation and Wounded Warriors during the game. Along with their tickets, the soldiers received a few Pirates gifts from Charlie and Cindy for their service to our country.
Presley out of lineup with concussion-like symptoms
PITTSBURGH -- Alex Presley remained out of the Pirates' delayed lineup on Wednesday, after undergoing tests for lingering effects of the concussion-like symptoms that had prompted his early departure from Tuesday night's game.
"This is not a test you want to cheat on," said manager Clint Hurdle, who had held off on making out his lineup card until getting medical updates on both Presley and Pedro Alvarez.
Alvarez, after missing two starts with complications of leg cramps, was back in the eventual lineup against the Astros. Presley's place in left field was taken by Drew Sutton, walk-off hero of Tuesday's 8-7 victory.
Presley was jarred making a headlong diving try for Jed Lowrie's first-inning looper, and complained of not feeling well a few innings later. He was removed from the game before the start of the fifth inning.
"It was a whiplash-type scenario. He hit the ground, and his lower torso came up," Hurdle said, describing the incident. "We follow an explicit battery of tests. This is one area in which the player has to interact honestly with the questioning process. It's amazing what kind of a feedback you can get with these tests. They give you a pretty good read on where the player is."
As of an hour before Wednesday's 1:35 p.m. ET first pitch, the Pirates had not decided whether to take advantage of MLB's relatively-new seven-day disabled list for concussion cases.
Success starting to make impact in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH -- "I met a man ...," Clint Hurdle began, and for a beat it sounded like the Pirates manager was about to launch into one of those amusing limericks of his.
But, no -- Hurdle was focusing on a Pittsburgh snapshot the morning the city had arisen to find its Pirates in a first-place tie on July 4.
"From talking to people, looking at some e-mails I've gotten ... people were pretty emotional [Tuesday] night," said Hurdle, reflecting on the fallout from the 8-7 comeback victory over Houston. "They shared with me that they hadn't felt that way in 20 years. That has meaning."
Like everybody else involved in the daily grind of the game, Hurdle is not a halfway kind of guy. You don't step outside of the circle to assess your position within the circle.
Still, he could appreciate the vibes.
"When you can add joy in somebody's life, through baseball or whatever other means, that's pretty significant," he said. "The depth of it, I don't think our guys can understand because they haven't embraced it the last 19 years. So I don't think we can understand the impact we can make. But giving them a competitive team, a team they can be proud of, yes, I do think they get that."
Hurdle has out-of-body experience in Tuesday's win
PITTSBURGH -- Until late Tuesday night, Clint Hurdle thought that "Silence is golden" was simply a vague expression.
The Pirates' manager learned otherwise the instant Houston pinch-hitter Jason Castro ripped a game-tying double into PNC Park's right-field corner with two outs in the ninth inning.
As soon as he saw Castro's swing on a 3-2 pitch from Joel Hanrahan, Hurdle walked toward the lineup card posted on the dugout wall to plot his next moves, when he heard ... nothing.
"There's no bigger punch to the gut than when the closer doesn't close. Boom. You could've heard a pin drop," Hurdle recalled. "It was deathly still, which was a cool sound in and of itself, because it had been so electric when the pitch was out of his hand.
"From everyone standing up and 'Let's go Bucs!' and all heck breaking loose to ... nothing. And I'm thinking, 'This is pretty cool.'"
Hurdle's mind immediately flashed back to Oct. 10, 1980. The Bronx. Eighth inning. With the Yankees holding a 2-1 lead over Kansas City in Game 3 of the ALCS, George Brett ripped a three-run homer off Goose Gossage to send the Royals to the World Series, and 56,588 in Yankee Stadium clammed up.
"I never had been in a venue where there were that many people go quiet," Hurdle said.
Tuesday night, there were only 21,516 people in PNC Park, but the effect was the same. Not the result. Minutes later, Drew Sutton's walk-off homer gave Pirates fans their voices back.
The last word
"It was one of the best Fourths I've ever had, just being with the kids and a tourist in bathing suit and flip-flops. I mentioned that the other day and [his wife] Karla says, 'Well, you know what you have to do to recreate that.' And I said, 'I'm good. I'll hold off on that for a while.'"
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, reflecting on July 4, 2009, spent out of uniform and on the beach after he'd been dismissed as Colorado manager.
• The nation joined Pirates pitcher Jared Hughes in celebrating his 27th birthday on Wednesday.
• The Pirates would have had to lose Wednesday's game to match the midpoint record of the last Pittsburgh team to play in the postseason (and have a winning record). The 1992 Bucs were 44-37 at the 81-game mark.
• In Thursday night's finale of the Houston series, the Pirates will try to complete their first four-game sweep since May 29-May 1, 2006, when they did it to the Brewers at PNC Park. Already, the Bucs have run their record in the last 12 series to 10-1-1.
• The victory over Houston rookie Dallas Keuchel improved the Pirates' home record against left-handed starters to 10-2.
• Jason Grilli's perfect outing on Wednesday was No. 300 of his career. "Those kinds of milestones, any time you reach a round number, are awesome. I hope to get 300 more before I retire," Grilli said.
• Pirates pinch-hitters have delivered 11 hits in their last 26 at-bats, an average of .423.
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. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.