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Looking to get back in race, Bucs miss chances

Pirates feel surge is ahead, but struggle in odd game vs. Cubs
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Before the Pirates' 6-1 loss to the Cubs on Friday, manager Clint Hurdle was asked if the Bucs -- winners of three in a row entering the day -- had a surge in them to get back into contention in an underperforming National League Central. His answer made it clear he thought the club's best days were ahead.

"There's been opportunities in games that we could've tipped them our way," Hurdle said. "We didn't do it. We have the group of men -- I really do believe -- to compete in this division and make a surge."

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CHICAGO -- Before the Pirates' 6-1 loss to the Cubs on Friday, manager Clint Hurdle was asked if the Bucs -- winners of three in a row entering the day -- had a surge in them to get back into contention in an underperforming National League Central. His answer made it clear he thought the club's best days were ahead.

"There's been opportunities in games that we could've tipped them our way," Hurdle said. "We didn't do it. We have the group of men -- I really do believe -- to compete in this division and make a surge."

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Yet on Friday, as the table was set over and over for that surge, it never came. Rather, a host of oddities, errors and and missed opportunities proved too much to overcome.

"It was weird," Bucs starter Trevor Williams said.

Early on, the Pirates' offense seemed destined to break through. The team loaded the bases in the first inning and put two in scoring position in the second with nobody out, but the big hit never came. Pittsburgh stranded 12 runners -- including seven in the first four innings -- and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

"The first few innings, it was weird for both sides," Williams said. "Kind of anything that can happen on a baseball field happened. We were waiting for the streaker to run on the field and make it all full circle."

Williams lasted only 3 2/3 innings and allowed three runs, but as Hurdle pointed out after the game, he didn't pitch all that poorly. Behind him, the defense committed a season-high-tying three errors, which extended his outing and forced his pitch count up. By the time the Cubs started to get to him in the fourth inning, Williams was nearing the 100-pitch mark.

"We created some chaos for him early," Hurdle said. "I mean, two balls are hit, not even [leaving] the infield, and it's second and third. And then we make two more errors in the inning following that, and there's another situation. You're talking close to 100 pitches and him to execute and pitch out of the stretch. I thought he was very competitive today."

Yet as the Pirates began a key stretch against the three teams ahead of them in the division, those were things they couldn't afford.

Kris Bryant's RBI triple and Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer in the fourth accounted for more offense than the Pirates could muster all game, leaving them on the short end of a game they felt was theirs for the taking.

"We had some opportunities there in the game," Andrew McCutchen said. "[We] just weren't able to get the big hit like we needed. We weren't able to finish like we should have. We're able to finish. We're able to win that game."

Scott Chasen is a reporter with MLB.com based in Chicago who covered the Pirates on Friday.

Pittsburgh Pirates