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Lack of clutch hitting frustrates Hurdle, Pirates

Bucs go 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position

CHICAGO -- If Clint Hurdle had a fuse, one had the sense by the end of Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Cubs that he'd be getting down to the frayed end of it. He is a manager with boundless patience for and confidence in his players but those, too, appeared to be running low.

Gerrit Cole blamed himself. Several teammates had a little blame for home-plate umpire Chris Segal. But Hurdle couldn't help looking at the day's base traffic.

The Cubs had eight men reach scoring position and half of them scored -- none on a hit.

Hurdle's Bucs also had eight men reach scoring position. None scored, despite an 11-hit attack.

"From the third through the eighth, we had runners in scoring position," Hurdle noted. "There aren't many guys in that lineup who didn't get a shot at driving in a run. For six consecutive innings we were putting guys out there."

Chicago got one run on an unproductive pitch (Arquimedes Caminero's wild one) and three runs on productive outs.

"We had that chance three consecutive innings, and couldn't do it," Hurdle said.

Frustration is a condition Hurdle dismisses for the most part, because "that's what you feel when you don't know what you're doing."

But he had to feel at least a tinge of frustration in the eighth, when the Bucs reached a perfect tipping point and couldn't reach the other side. Jon Lester was out of the game, reliever Brian Schlitter was welcomed by the third hits by Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang, respectively.

Nobody out. The potential tying runs lined up in the batter's box, on deck, in the hole.

After lefty Phil Coke retired Gregory Polanco on a hard comebacker, righty Jason Motte entered to deal with Sean Rodriguez. Hurdle had envisioned painting the Cubs into this exact corner, for here came Pedro Alvarez off the bench.

"You only get one shot to get him on a right-hander, and that was the shot we had," Hurdle nodded. "We got a chance to tie the ballgame up. Pedro went up there with bad intentions. It didn't work out."

Motte fanned Alvarez on a 3-2 pitch. Chris Stewart then flied out, ending the Bucs' 1-for-14 day with men in scoring position.

"We just aren't stringing things together," Hurdle said, "or getting that one punch in the gap when we need to get an inning going with any consistency."

"Yeah, we had our chances," said Andrew McCutchen, who brought up the rear of the Bucs' last threat against Lester by looking at a third strike to end the seventh with two on. "But it's a tough battle, man, when you feel like it's 0-2 before you even see the first pitch."

Lester faced 30 men, and started off 22 of them with strikes. Most of those first strikes were called.

"We're not gonna get into that," Neil Walker said. "We just didn't do a good enough job taking advantage of situations we needed to. Everything else is besides the point."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Starling Marte, Jung Ho Kang, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Pedro Alvarez