Pirates, nearly .500, seeing boost in attendance at PNC Park

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Attendance is down, in general, around most of Major League Baseball. The weather has played a part in that and so has the poor state of the economy. But at least one unexpected team has seen a rise in support, a rise that is only gaining more momentum: the Pittsburgh Pirates.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, ticket sales this year at the gorgeous PNC Park are already up 2.4 percent and are 14 percent ahead of the sales pace set in 2010.

The Pirates sold out Saturday evening’s 6-2 interleague victory over the Tigers, in part because of a bobblehead promotion featuring popular second baseman and Pittsburgh native Neil Walker. One Pirates executive is predicting that the club will draw at least nine sellouts this season.

“We’re seeing some pretty good growth,” executive vice president Lou DePaoli said last week. “Even some weekday games are moving well. We should have more sellouts this year than we did last year.”

Of course, playing good baseball helps. The Bucs have an improved 22-23 record this season and sit only four games back of the Cardinals in the National League Central standings.

More than 90,000 tickets have been sold for the Pirates’ early-June series against the cross-state Phillies.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.