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Pirates Report: 9/17/00

Sunday, September 17, 2000

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pirates vs. Houston Astros, 3:05 p.m. today, Enron Field, Houston. TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh; Radio: KDKA-AM (1020) and Pirates Radio Network. Dan Serafini (2-4) will start for the Pirates; Scott Elarton (16-6) for the Astros.

Jason Kendall continued to play with a fractured bone in his right cheek, but he did get some help. "They flew in a Darth Vader helmet with a double [ear] flap," he said. Kendall catcher was injured when struck in the face by an errant pickoff throw by Houston pitcher Chris Holt in the first inning Thursday night. "It hurts at night. It's tough to sleep. But it's not that bad during the games. It's sore, but it's bearable. I can physically go out there and play," Kendall said. Doctors told him the fracture would take four to six weeks to heal, so what does he do about dining at his favorite California restaurant -- Wienerschnitzel -- when goes home in two weeks? "I'll just have to throw a chili cheese dog into a blender," he said, laughing -- just a little.

Right-hander Brian Smith, who allowed two runs in 11/3 innings Friday night, has a sore elbow and might not pitch again this season. "We'll see how he is in two or three days," Manager Gene Lamont said. "If he's not OK then, he probably won't pitch." Smith is the reliever the Pirates plucked from the Toronto organization in Rule Five draft. The Pirates made him a free agent after they took him, and he re-signed with them.

The latest from Roofgate. Because the weather cooled and the humidity dropped yesterday, the Astros left the roof on Enron Field open for the entire game last night. "That's fine with me," said Lamont, who has been constant in his opinion that the roof should not begin opening during games when the visiting team is at bat. He believes that gives the Astros an advantage when they bat in the bottom of the inning with the roof open the entire half-inning.

First baseman Alex Hernandez recovered from a 4-for-40 start after his promotion from Class AA Altoona and had a fine year with Class AAA Nashville. He batted .277 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 274 at-bats. "He struggled at first and then -- Wow! -- he went from .180 to .280 just like that," said Richie Hebner, who managed Nashville for much of this season. "He was more selective and tried to just swing at strikes. When he came up from Altoona, he was very anxious at the plate because he wanted to impress. I would think he's part of the future with the Pirates. He's going to get bigger and stronger. I think he could hit 30 to 35 home runs a year in this league in a couple more years."

The Pirates loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning Friday night after John Vander Wal's leadoff home run. They added four runs and had a 5-0 lead entering the bottom of the second. It was the 19th game this season in which the Pirates loaded the bases with no outs. They've scored 59 runs given that situation and are 13-6 in the 19 games. The sixth loss was Friday night when the Astros rallied to win, 16-7. "It's not a fun place to be," Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell said, referring to Enron Field.

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