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To overcome Pirates' past, Hurdle focused on present

Manager trying to end team's drought of 20 consecutive losing seasons

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle emphasizes today.

During his time as a big league manager, first in Colorado and now in Pittsburgh, Hurdle has always shunned talk about yesterday or tomorrow.

"You don't want to be distracted about what has happened or what could happen," he has said in the past.

The past two decades have certainly been a distraction for the Pirates, particularly the last two years. The Pirates have endured 20 consecutive losing seasons, and what made the last two so painful is that what appeared to be an end to the drought disappeared in a second-half fade.

To the credit of Hurdle and the Pirates players, there has been no sign of a hangover this year.

The Pirates went into Saturday with a 55-36 record, one win shy of the most the franchise has ever had at the All-Star break. The Pirates were 56-31 at the break in 1971 on the way to a World Series championship.

The three previous times the Pirates have had at least 55 wins at the All-Star break they have won a division title -- 1971, 1972 and 1975.

Not only have the Pirates set a pro sports team record for consecutive losing seasons, but their drought is more than twice as long as any other current losing streak in baseball. Kansas City has endured nine consecutive losing seasons. Next? Cleveland, Houston and the New York Mets have had four in a row.

Since the Pirates' last winning season (1992), Major League Baseball has added four teams -- Colorado, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Miami. Not only have each of them had winning seasons, but they have each gone to the World Series during the Pirates' drought, and Miami (1997 and 2003) and Arizona (2001) have won titles.

The Pirates haven't won a World Series since 1979. During that 35-year drought, 19 other teams have claimed World Series titles, including six for the Yankees and three for St. Louis.

Washington/Montreal, the Chicago Cubs and Seattle are the only other franchises to have not advanced to a World Series since that last Pirates championship. The Nationals did get to the postseason in 1981 as the Montreal Expos and last year. Seattle was in the postseason in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001. The Cubs were postseason participants in 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Miami mystery

Washington right-hander Stephen Strasburg was gone after two innings at Miami on Friday in what was the least effective start of his career. For the second time, Strasburg worked only two innings. He was removed after two innings against Atlanta on May 31, but that was because of a strained oblique.

On Friday he was lifted after a 66-pitch, two-inning struggle in which he threw only 33 strikes and gave up seven runs on five hits and four walks. It was only the 10th time in his career that Strasburg worked fewer than five innings.

The seven runs equaled his career high. He also gave up seven runs against the Marlins on Sept. 28, 2012.

The Marlins are a mystery for Strasburg. He has allowed five or more runs only six times in his career, and three of those have been against Miami. He gave up five runs against the Marlins on Sept. 7, 2012. He is 0-3 in those three games, charged with 19 earned runs in 10 innings. Strasburg, however, is 5-0 in his eight other career starts against the Marlins and has allowed only five runs total in 47 1/3 innings. Don't overreact to Strasburg's 5-7 record this year. He does have a 2.99 ERA, and in his six no-decisions he has allowed only 10 runs in 36 innings.

Powerful statement

Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis hit his Major League-leading 36th homer on Saturday to become the fourth player in history with at least that many by the All-Star break. Davis, however, has appeared in more games (94) prior to the break than any of the others.

Barry Bonds, who has the pre-All-Star record of 39 home runs in 2001, played in 81 games prior to the break that year. Mark McGwire played in 80 games and hit 37 home runs prior to the break in 1998, and Reggie Jackson was in 91 games and hit 37 home runs before the break in 1969. The two others with 35 home runs at the break were Luis Gonzalez, who appeared in 87 pre-break games in 2001, and Ken Griffey Jr., who appeared in 88 games in 1998.

None of the five who previously had 35 home runs at the break hit as many post-break home runs.

Bonds, who hit 34 after the break in 2001 en route to a record 73 home runs, and McGwire, who hit 33 after the break in 1998, are the only two of the five who wound up leading the Major Leagues in home runs.

Jackson hit 10 post-break home runs in 1969, finishing behind Harmon Killebrew (49) and Frank Howard (48) for the Major League home run lead. Gonzalez, who hit 22 home runs after the break in 2001, and Griffey, who hit 21 in 1998, also finished third in the Majors in home runs those seasons.

Unfinished work

Two of the longest streaks in baseball without a complete game ended this week. On Tuesday, Wily Peralta went distance for Milwaukee against Cincinnati, ending the Brewers' streak of 407 games without a complete game.

On Saturday, Tyler Chatwood was credited with complete game in 1-0 loss against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Rockies' first in 300 games. The Rockies' last two complete games have been eight-inning efforts in losses. Chatwood's was the first since Jhoulys Chacin's 2-1, eight-inning effort at Cincinnati on Aug. 11, 2011. 

The Rockies have gone 364 games without a complete-game victory, dating to Ubaldo Jimenez's four-hit, 3-0 win at Los Angeles on June 1, 2011. That was Jimenez's first win in his 10th start of the 2011 season.

The longest streak without a complete game now belongs to Baltimore, which goes into Sunday having gone 192 games since Jason Hammel went the distance in 5-0 win at Atlanta on June 16, 2012.

Out of left field

Sports historian Maury Brown reports that Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips of the Reds joined Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes (1979-80 Dodgers), Pete Rose and Manny Trillo (1982 Phillies), Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio (1997 Astros) and Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks (2011 Brewers) as teammates elected to start at first and second on the same National League All-Star squads.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for