PITTSBURGH -- Catcher Ryan Doumit reached base safely in three of his four plate appearances on Wednesday, though the hits remain hard to come by for the team's starting catcher.
Entering Thursday's series finale, Doumit had just three hits (all singles) in his past 25 at-bats. That's a span that goes back to April 13.
Doumit has adjusted his stance at the plate in recent days, and, to his credit, has hit a number of balls on the nose, but right at fielders. Still, the strikeouts are piling up (12 in 42 at-bats) and Doumit has not connected for an extra-base hit since knocking two on Opening Day. With Doumit as one of the few power threats in the lineup, the Pirates desperately need that to change.
"I thought his approach has been good," manager John Russell said. "He's starting to use the big part of the park again, which, when he's good, that's what he does. He's just missed a couple balls. If he stays with that approach, he should be fine."
Russell dropped Doumit to the sixth spot in the batting order on Thursday, though he explained the decision being dictated more by the hot-hitting Ryan Church than Doumit's struggles. Church, who made the start in right, came into Thursday's game with seven hits in 16 at-bats, and Russell liked his placement behind Garrett Jones in the lineup. Doumit is expected to slide back into the fifth hole on days when Church isn't starting.
PNC Park green for Earth Day
PITTSBURGH -- In celebration of Earth Day, the Pirates hosted various events and highlighted particular initiatives at PNC Park on Thursday.
Before the game, about 30 volunteers gathered on Pittsburgh's North Shore to pick up litter. More than two dozen local organizations provided fans with information on environmental programs and initiatives as they walked into the stadium. Fans in attendance on Thursday also received a "green" Pirates cap made out of recycled plastic bottles.
PNC Park will be run entirely on renewable energy on Thursday, and every dollar spent on electricity at the ballpark on Earth Day will be matched with a dollar spent on renewable energy resource development.
Bucs offense dealing with feast, famine
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' offense, which has posted a .231 batting average and scored 54 runs in the first 14 games, hasn't been exceptional this season. But its production has largely swayed to one extreme or the other, depending on whether the game stays close late or not.
The team's seven defeats have come by a total of 52 runs, largely the byproduct of poor starting pitching. But the offense hasn't come through in these contests either. Consider that the Pirates have hit .339 (21 for-62) with runners in scoring position in their seven wins. In their seven losses, though, the team has just 11 hits in 61 at-bats in the same situations.
You don't have to look much further to understand why the offense hasn't been able to overcome the starting-pitching deficiencies.
"Our offense hasn't really responded yet when we've gotten down a few runs," said manager John Russell, whose team is 1-7 when trailing after six innings. "When we keep the game close, they seem to really find ways to win it. The next piece is that when we do get down, we have to find ways to continue to push."
A good place to start would be with the middle of the Pirates' order, which continues to collectively struggle. Heading into Thursday, the Nos. 4-6 spots in the lineup had combined to hit just .201 this year.
"We're 14 games deep," said Ryan Doumit, who is an integral part of that bunch. "I'm not pushing any panic buttons. I know what I'm capable of doing. I know what [Garrett Jones] is capable of doing. I know what everybody in this lineup is capable of doing. It's 14 games."
Jakubauskas may be recalled
PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas was pulled from his scheduled start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday, an obvious sign that he is about to join the big league club in Houston on Friday.
The Pirates have not made an official announcement, but Jakubauskas is likely to be recalled. That would give the club the option of using him in long relief on Friday, which could be necessary given how many innings the team's bullpen has logged in recent days.
If Pittsburgh can avoid calling on Jakubauskas in the first game of its series against the Astros -- which is certainly the club's preference -- he'll likely take the mound on Saturday. The Pirates were in need of a spot starter for the game, and Jakubauskas was one of three Triple-A starters being considered.
Jakubauskas has made two starts for Indianapolis this season and has lost both. In a combined 10 innings, he has allowed five runs on 10 hits and four walks. Jakubauskas does have Major League experience, all of that coming last season with the Mariners. In 35 appearances (eight starts) with Seattle in 2009, he went 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA.
PITTSBURGH -- On Thursday, manager John Russell reported improvement with both Andy LaRoche (back spasms) and Bobby Crosby (left shoulder soreness). Russell did not offer a projected date of return for either, but the club is optimistic it will have both infielders back sometime in Houston this weekend. ... Starting first baseman Jeff Clement was not in Thursday's lineup, marking the fifth time this season he did not start. The Pirates remain adamant that Clement, who is 5-for-37 this season, will remain the team's everyday first baseman. However, Russell has shown he will be liberal in giving the young infielder days off, too.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.