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Bad luck among diagnoses of Bucs' struggling bats

PITTSBURGH -- Looking up from the Bucs' historic offensive pit, Clint Hurdle still sees the physical tools and mental attitude to get it right.

"We've got a number of individuals who have not met expectations we projected going in," Hurdle said prior to Wednesday night's finale of the series against the Oakland A's. "We expect more from our offense."

The losses in the two opening games of the set may have been unprecedented. The Bucs dropped both by a 2-1 score while allowing eight total hits in the starts by Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole.

Going back to 1959, research revealed this was the first instance of the Pirates losing consecutive games in which they gave up no more than four runs and no more than eight hits.

Although Hurdle reiterated "I think we all like our team" and that "the guys aren't going to panic," he appeared to take a subtle swipe at some batters' mental approach in clutch situations.

The production has clearly not been there lately -- the Bucs scored six runs during the four-game losing streak they took into Wednesday night's delayed game -- but Hurdle was asked specifically if it had been a matter of bad luck by hitters who still stepped in with the right attitude.

"A lot of times we are getting the focus and preparation -- about half the time -- although not getting the results," Hurdle said slyly, doubtless aware that was actual condemnation. "Sometimes we're not getting either one [preparation or result]."

The Pirates hit a Majors-worst .228 with runners in scoring position, but that is only one example of their situational-hitting shortcomings. For instance, with 12 sacrifice flies through 89 games, the Bucs are also last among the 30 teams.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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