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Pirates notebook: NL Central foes fill upcoming schedule

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, 6:39 p.m.
Pirates starting pitcher Trevor Williams and catcher Francisco Cervelli watch as the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo greets teammate Ben Zobrist (left) as Zobrist scores the first run of the game in the fourth inning July 7, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
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Pirates starting pitcher Trevor Williams and catcher Francisco Cervelli watch as the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo greets teammate Ben Zobrist (left) as Zobrist scores the first run of the game in the fourth inning July 7, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen catches a ball hit by the Cubs' Ben Zobrist during the first inning Saturday, July 8, 2017, in Chicago.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen catches a ball hit by the Cubs' Ben Zobrist during the first inning Saturday, July 8, 2017, in Chicago.
Pirates starter Gerrit Cole pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.
Getty Images
Pirates starter Gerrit Cole pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, June 24, 2017.

TORONTO — Going into Sunday's games, the gap in the NL Central between the first-place St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs and the fourth-place Pirates was just three games. The Milwaukee Brewers were two back.

“It's always a dogfight in this division,” second baseman Josh Harrison said. “Gotta keep plugging away.”

Thirty-four of the Pirates' next 38 games will be against division foes. Is it time for things to start shaking out?

“It very well could be,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's one of the best times of the season when you're engaged. I love the fact that it's this tightly packed.”

The Pirates have won 11 of their past 16 games against NL Central teams, including a four-game sweep of the Brewers at PNC Park on July 17-20.

After an off day, the Pirates will open a two-game set against the Brewers on Tuesday.

Cutch returns

Andrew McCutchen returned to the lineup Sunday, two days after tweaking his left knee.

To save him from having to chase fly balls on the Rogers Centre's artificial turf, McCutchen was used as the designated hitter.

“I think I'll be all right,” said McCutchen, who got electrical stimulation treatment and tested his knee in agility drills before the game.

Hurdle returns, too

Hurdle rejoined the team after missing two games to attend Don Baylor's funeral in Austin, Texas. The list of MLB notables who attended included Rod Carew, Frank Robinson, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre.

“A large group of people who came to honor a really good man,” Hurdle said. “Members of so many organizations. The networking of people he touched really showed up at the church.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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