The Pirates run-up to the All-Star break was very impressive. Since the middle of June, the Bucs have been on a tear, and that’s kept them close, especially in the wild card race. Jordy Mercer says it will serve them well in the sprint to postseason, “all it’s done is give us some experience, and especially for the playoffs the playoffs late push…we were there for the grind the last few years, and it came down to a few games towards the end the last few years, and all it’s gonna do is get us more prepared and a little more experienced, and we know what it takes.”

Still no comment from the Steelers, the NFL, or Le’Veon Bell’s agent about Bell’s reported looming suspension for another alleged violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Bell is reported to have missed several drug tests, but today on instagram, Bell reassured fans that he won’t miss any games this season. Bell responded to an altered Instagram photo referencing his previous marijuana use, saying, “I’m gonna win the appeal. People have no idea what happened, but don’t worry, let them hate.” In another Instagram response, Bell said, “I’m not gonna miss games, trust me.”

Memorial Day, we like to joke, is the beginning of the end of summer, and this year, the Penguins Stanley Cup run and the US Open lasted more than three weeks past Memorial Day. That means a short summer was made even shorter. Now it’s time for training camp, which has to signal the ‘end of the end’ of summer. I know, Labor Day’s still more than five weeks away, but football season is almost officially here. So get to bed. Before you know it, you’ll be getting up for school.

What a story coming out of Chicago. Chris Sale, cut up the throwback jersey that he didn’t want to wear on Saturday night. It was the 1976 White Sox throwback. Sale said they were uncomfortable, and accused the team of putting public relations ahead of winning. His manager, Robin Ventura, questions the decision, “From being a player, everybody wears a uniform they don’t necessarily like or, but you wear it. If you want to rip it up after, you can rip it up after.”

The Steelers said goodbye to another veteran tight end on Thursday. Matt Spaeth was released with a designation of a Failed Physical. The team said Spaeth never fully recovered from a knee injury.

22 golfers have withdrawn from the Rio Olympics because of fears of the Zika virus, but not Bubba Watson. Bubba says he will represent the United States next month in Rio, “no, we’ve had to adopt our kids, so the scare of Zika and everything was never on my mind. I’ve never been afraid to go overseas because of security risks or anything like that, so it was a no-brainer for me, long as I made the team I was going.”

For the Pirates, 37 of the final 70 games will be against the Brewers, Phillies, Reds and Braves. Those are inferior teams. Those are games the Pirates need to win. The Brewers are at PNC Park tomorrow night, Wednesday night and Thursday night. The Phillies start a series here on Friday night. Saturday and Sunday are both afternoon games against the Phillies.

Mark Melancon on his 3rd All-Star game: “last two experiences have been awesome…I’m looking to…I’m looking to another awesome trip, and it will be fun with Marte his first time…getting to know the guys in the league and you know it’s all a blast.”

The All-Star break is a good time to reflect on a tremendous turnaround by the Pirates.
The Bucs lost 18 of their first 23 games in June, but since then, they’ve won 12 of 16.
Andrew McCutchen’s on a tear, and Josh Bell had a debut weekend for the ages. What they’ve been able to do impresses their manager, Clint Hurdle, “I like the grit that we have, always have…we played good baseball for two months, we had a hard June, and we came back and finished strong. I love the belief in that clubhouse. I love the way we go about the game, the noise in the dugout, you can’t hear it. I love the energy we bring every day. We never count ourselves out.”

The trade of Neil Walker for Jonathan Niese is looking like a good old-fashioned dud. Niese lasted only 3 2/3 innings on Sunday. He gave up 8 hits and 5 runs. Niese is now 7-6 on the season with a 5.13 ERA, but he’s lost four of his last six decisions. After Sunday’s game, Niese talked about his frustrations, and his recent disappointing performances, “I’ve never been on this bad of a run, but like I said I’m going to reset this all-star break, come back in the 2nd half, give it all I’ve got and the results will change.”

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