"It's been a rough ride here lately," Mackowiak explained. "No matter what you do, it seems like it's wrong -- you hit the ball hard and it's at them, or you strike out. It's a tough one to get out of, and it's a good thing that [Pirates manager] Lloyd [McClendon] has the confidence to keep putting me in there to keep trying."
Mackowiak isn't sure what happened, but he is working hard to get back in the groove.
"Baseball's a humbling game -- things change daily, [even] per at-bat," Mackowiak stated. "Sometimes, you go up there one at-bat, [and] you feel like you're the best and you can't miss a ball. The next time, you get up there, and you can't figure anything out. No matter how much you've hit, more or less -- I've tried doing everything over the last couple of weeks to try to get out of the slump, and I'm just going to keep battling."
Mackowiak has always been a streaky hitter. On June 11, he was batting .358, but since then, his average has fallen steadily. Entering Sunday's action, he was hitting .283.
McClendon hopes Mackowiak's bat will awaken soon.
"He hasn't been as streaky this year," McClendon offered. "He just hit a bad stretch where he was in a slump and faced some real good pitching, and it had an effect on him. I look for him to bounce back and pick it back up."
Rotation set: The Pirates have set their pitching rotation for after the All-Star break. They will start off with lefty Mark Redman on July 15 at Chicago, followed by right-hander Josh Fogg, southpaw Zach Duke and right-hander Kip Wells.
"I just wanted to make sure everybody was well rested coming off the break," McClendon explained. "We'll try to get everybody freshened up. My only concern was, if I brought Wells right back, he would not have any rest at all, and, traditionally, we like to get all our starters freshened up during the break. That's what it's for. So this just makes much more sense."
The Pirates have a home doubleheader against Houston right after the Chicago series, and McClendon indicated he is still leaning toward giving right-hander Ian Snell a spot start.
Anticipation: While most of the Pirates are looking forward to a few days off during the All-Star break, the Bucs' lone All-Star representative, outfielder Jason Bay, is looking forward to participating in the Midsummer Classic in Detroit.
"What I look forward to is walking in the locker room and just seeing all the jerseys and all the names there," Bay explained. "You know, you play [against] all these guys during the season, but you never really get to rub elbows with them on a baseball field, where you just say, 'How you doing?' with a little head nod and keep going. Now, you'll get a chance to talk to some guys in a less formal setting and just relax and have fun."
Bay will also represent his native Canada in the Home Run Derby.
"It's exciting, especially on a national scale," Bay said. "It's something I've never done before, and I don't know how many chances I'll get to ever do it again. I'm not really expecting to go out there and knock 25 or so out of the park, but I'm just going to go up there and pull every ball that I can and hopefully get a few out. I'm really looking forward to the game."