After tough stretch, Pirates enjoy a day off

July 2nd, 2016

OAKLAND -- And on the 49th day, the Pirates rested. Finally.

The Pirates got to enjoy an increasingly-rare luxury Thursday in San Francisco: a true off-day, their first since May 12 in Chicago, before opening a series against the A's on Friday.

"Fantastic," Clint Hurdle said in the visiting manager's office at Oakland Coliseum. "Thought about taking another one today, but I was told we had a game."

For the better part of the last two months, that's been the case. Beginning on May 13, the Pirates had games scheduled for 31 straight days. A long haul grew longer with a few rainouts and makeup games scattered in the mix.

Before Thursday, the Pirates came to the ballpark ready to play a game 47 times in 48 days. The lone exception was June 13, an off-day they used to travel to New York.

The stretch included several tough turnarounds, none more so than a day trip to Coors Field for a makeup game against the Rockies in the middle of a homestand at PNC Park. The Pirates lost that game, 11-5, and the three following home games against the Cardinals.

The Pirates went 20-26 during that stretch. They went from as high as nine games over .500 (May 27) to as low as five under (June 23). They lost several key players (Gerrit Cole, Francisco Cervelli, Ryan Vogelsong) to injuries and dealt with more than a handful of other bumps and bruises.

After struggling through a 9-19 June, the Pirates were ready to enjoy a brief respite on Thursday.

Matt Joyce, John Jaso and Jeff Locke visited Alcatraz, the former island prison located in the San Francisco Bay. Jared Hughes had dinner with family in San Francisco. Jameson Taillon posted a picture on Twitter of himself and fellow rookies Chad Kuhl and Adam Frazier by the Golden Gate Bridge. Jonathon Niese played a round at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Hurdle traveled to nearby Sausalito, enjoyed an massage in the afternoon and had dinner with his daughter, Ashley.

"I think everybody got to reprogram on how grateful you can be for a full off-day," Hurdle said. "Some people went different directions. It was really a good day for everybody."

Can it make a difference going forward? Hurdle thinks so, even pointing out how many players showed up voluntarily for an early workout Friday afternoon.

"I think everybody really unplugged," Hurdle said. "Now, they're plugged in appropriately and ready to go.

"The interesting thing this year is June has been our best month, and it turned out to be one of the worst months. That was something new to work with. I think we found out a lot about the conviction of the club and the attitude and effort of the club, regardless of if wins come your way.

"The buy-in of the men and the way they've continued to fight as they continue to look to improve, there's no doubting that we've not lowered the bar of what we want to get done in the end."