CINCINNATI -- After breaking out of a slump of nearly historic proportions, second baseman Aki Iwamura is poised to rocket his batting average to a respectable level. At least, that's the hope of manager John Russell.
Before Sunday's win over Atlanta, Iwamura had gone hitless in his last 34 at-bats, the longest single-season streak by a Pirates position player since Hal Finney in 1936. But Iwamura, who has been bothered recently by a sore hamstring, went 2-for-5 with a single and a double on Sunday to raise his batting average nine points (.152 to .161).
"Hopefully, we can start heading in the upward direction instead of hovering so low," Russell said. "His approach was much better. He stayed on the ball much better, and he wasn't spinning out as much. He has the ability to drive balls when he stays within himself. Hopefully, that's a step in the right direction."
With just four hits this past month, how can Russell have confidence that Iwamura will continue working out of his slump?
"A shattered-bat single can jump-start anybody," Russell said. "It's just a matter of getting on base. When you're in those slumps, getting to first is a challenge sometimes. He's talked about feeling better. We're seeing improvement in his batting practice. He's worked really hard and hopefully, it's starting to pay some dividends for him."
LaRoche still awaiting to get 'back' in lineup
CINCINNATI -- For the third straight game, Andy LaRoche is not in the starting lineup, and manager John Russell said before Monday's game that he's not exactly sure when his third baseman will return.
"I really don't know -- when he's feeling better," Russell said. "We'll see how he comes in [Tuesday]. Make it through today, sleep and get up, and come in tomorrow."
LaRoche has been bothered by a stiff back, and after going 0-for-4 on Friday while making his career debut in the leadoff spot, he hasn't been in the lineup since. He said before Sunday's game that he's been feeling pretty good, but evidently, his back hasn't felt that good.
"I talked to him, and he's starting to feel better," Russell said. "We'll just keep going day-to-day with it."
LaRoche, who's hitting .256 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, was spotted briefly in the clubhouse before Monday's game with the Reds, but he quickly scurried away.
Pearce exits game with ankle injury
CINCINNATI -- First baseman Steve Pearce sprained his right ankle in the bottom of the second inning on Monday while chasing down a throwing error. One inning later, Jeff Clement replaced him in the lineup.
Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes hit a hard smash that Pirates third baseman Delwyn Young corralled, but he threw the ball well wide of the bag, forcing Pearce to dive to the left field side of the base.
As Gomes headed for second base, Pearce chased down the ball, but after retrieving it and throwing to second, he appeared to twist his right ankle. He hobbled around for a few minutes, and Pittsburgh manager John Russell and team trainer Brad Henderson emerged from the dugout to check on him. But after a short delay, Pearce returned to his position and the game resumed.
After the Pirates batted in the top of the third inning, though, Russell took Pearce out of the game.
Shedding some light in Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- As the Pirates headed from the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park to the field, they were greeted with a sign taped to the door that read:
There will be no use of the video board tonight except for the linescore and team lineups until the seventh inning.
There will be no music tonight except for an old-time band and an organ until the middle of the seventh.
The middle of the seventh will be extended by 60 seconds and will feature fireworks.
The reason: the Reds on Monday celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first night baseball game in Major League history. It happened May 24, 1935 at Crosley Field, and three-quarters of a century later, the Reds went "unplugged," outfitting the scoreboard to make it look similar to its appearance in 1935.
In the seventh inning, an original lamp from 1935 will be switched on, celebrating the moment President Franklin D. Roosevelt lit the ballpark with a flick of his finger.
Josh Katzowitz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.