Pirates 'Buc-ing' NL trend in Interleague Play

Pirates 'Buc-ing' NL trend in Interleague Play

KANSAS CITY -- Not as much attention is paid to it these days, perhaps because it has become a constant in the daily schedule, but the American League's dominance in Interleague play continues. Entering play on Tuesday, AL clubs held a 124-105 edge this season over the National League.

A glaring exception to this trend are the Pirates, who had won 10 of their past 11 Interleague games. Their overall 2011 Interleague record of 11-5 was by far the best among NL teams. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Bucs' Interleague record of 37-19 is MLB's second-best.

In addition to Pirates pitchers and hitters, the credit is shared by a third squad: The advance scouts who prep the team to handle largely unknown opponents.

Jim Benedict, Mike Basso, Jim Dedrick and their cohorts never show up in box scores. Or, do they?

"We get this book from our advance scouts," manager Clint Hurdle said, holding up a thick binder, "and I trust them, and put those things in play. The reports we get have been so good. We still have to go out and execute, but we have a pretty good feeling going in against a club we haven't even seen live."

Three of the Bucs' Interleague foes train in Arizona, making these teams totally foreign. The Pirates added Monday's series-opening win over the Royals to an earlier 6-1 slate against the White Sox and the Indians.

Before Hurdle assumed the helm in 2011 and, along with GM Neal Huntington, worked to revamp the club's scouting army, the Pirates were 2-13 in Interleague play in 2010.

"It has been rewarding," Hurdle said of the turnaround. "When you get one look at a club, there are a lot of things you don't know. Our scouts have done a tremendous job."

Touching all the bases
• First: Left-hander Francisco Liriano, scratched by a stiff neck from his scheduled Saturday start, felt fine in a side session on Tuesday and is set to make his next start on Thursday against Washington at PNC Park.

Cervelli's apparent injury

• Second: Catcher Francisco Cervelli, sporting a nasty welt on the right forearm where he'd stopped a pitch on Monday night, forcing his mid-game removal, according to Hurdle was "available in an emergency-only situation" on Tuesday night, when Chris Stewart took his usual start catching Gerrit Cole.

• Third: A.J. Burnett picking up a win on Monday despite allowing a season-high six runs further skewered an amazing stat. He now has an ERA of 2.76 in his eight victories - and 1.85 in the other seven starts.

• Home: The guy making his first start of the season at third base for the Pirates was identified by the Royals in the lineup posted in Kauffman Stadium's public areas as Brett Morel. Hall of Famer George Brett brilliantly handled the position here for two decades, of course.

"I hope it's a good omen," Brent Morel said.

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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.