PIT@SEA: Three homers pace Bucs' five-run inning

SEATTLE -- From the moment gray uniforms came into being, the baseball adage has held that to win championships, you must play .500 ball on the road.

So what does .611 ball get you?

That is what the Pirates managed between dropping their first three away games, April 5-7 in Los Angeles, and Wednesday afternoon's finale here of a brief two-game set with the Mariners. The Pirates entered this game having won 22 of their last 36 road games.

The Bucs won 17 away games in all of 2010, their last season prior to Clint Hurdle's becoming manager.

"We've ramped that up each year, something we definitely wanted to address; it was a big to-do item," Hurdle said. "We've been very competitive with the challenges the road can bring. This trip in particular, to some tough cities to play tough teams," including the Reds in Cincinnati and the Angels in Anaheim prior to the stop here.

"You have to meet the demands of the game," Hurdle added. "That's what we've been able to do to a very good degree."

Success on the road can raise a team to a different level. Instead of going home to get well, the Pirates are heading to PNC Park to get even better. Twelve of their next 15 games will be on the shores of the Allegheny.

Depth allows Bucs to navigate 'pen with ease

PIT@LAA: Welker impressive in MLB debut vs. Halos

SEATTLE -- There was nothing particularly newsworthy about the roster move the Pirates had to make Wednesday morning -- returning reliever Duke Welker to Indianapolis and turning over his roster spot to the day's starting pitcher, Jeanmar Gomez -- but, at the same time, it was revealing.

It highlighted the organizational bullpen depth on a couple of levels.

On the short end, the Bucs felt comfortable optioning out a guy who had retired all four men he faced with a mixture of 96-mph fastballs and 89-mph sliders.

"I think everyone went, 'Yeah. Good for him, good for us.' He's got a nice arsenal he's worked hard to command," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I'm proud of him. He's a homegrown kid who has had to persevere and work hard to get closer to this opportunity."

On the longer end, Gomez's return to the rotation brought to mind his original job on the staff -- long man in the bullpen -- and how effectively the Pirates were able to replace that important role.

The key there has been Bryan Morris, who around three rides on the Indianapolis shuttle has made 10 multiple-innings appearances.

Along with Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro and Tony Watson, that gives the Pirates a quartet of long relievers, which Hurdle considers a tremendous asset.

"Not too many teams have [only] two one-inning pitchers," Hurdle said, referring to Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli. "Most are limited by having four, five. Those multiple-inning guys give us a tremendously different look."

Worth noting

• Wednesday's game against Felix Hernandez was the Pirates' 11th of the season against a former winner of the Cy Young Award, including two faceoffs with the 2010 AL recipient. The Bucs split the first 10 meetings.

• Prior to Wednesday's game, the Pirates collected 10-plus hits in six consecutive games, their best such streak since a similar six-game skein from July 21-26, 2008.

• Pedro Alvarez extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a second-inning single off Hernandez. The only longer streak of Alvarez's career came in 2010, when he hit in 11 straight near the end of his rookie season.

First number, last word

10-3: Pirates' Interleague record entering Wednesday's game in Seattle -- their last action against an American League team until a July 8 series opener against the Oakland A's at PNC Park.

"I got a few texts from some of the guys, before they got into celebrating big-time. I'm most happy for coach." --Notable UCLA alumnus Gerrit Cole, on John Savage's Bruins capturing the first College World Series crown in program history with Tuesday night's 8-0 victory over Mississippi State.