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Hurdle, Pirates still looking for that long run

| Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says his team has the components to put together a season-ending winning streak that could catapult it into the playoffs. Hurdle managed the 2007 Colorado Rockies, who won 14 of their final 15, including 11 straight, to reach the playoffs. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talks to home plate umpire Wally Bell Monday, September 3, 2012, against the Houston Astros at PNC Park. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

The Pirates this season have not been a streaky team.

Their longest winning streak is five games (July 17-22), and they've also produced five four-game win streaks.

They've lost five games in a row once (April 4-8) and three times have dropped four in a row.

With a wild-card berth still within reach, this would be the perfect time to reel off a long stretch of wins.

“I'm not so sure it's a matter of flipping a switch,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “If we had a switch, we'd have it flipped on all the time.”

Over the past decade, the Pirates have produced just one winning streak longer than six games. From June 26-July 5, 2004, the Pirates beat the Reds, Cardinals, Brewers and Marlins. And that run only made a lousy season more tolerable: The Pirates were 37-43 when it ended and finished the season 72-89.

Still, it wouldn't surprise Hurdle if the Pirates got on a roll.

“This team has it in it,” Hurdle said. “We've had some really good stretches already. We have the personnel to do it. We've got to take it out on the field and make it happen.”

When Hurdle managed Colorado in 2007, the Rockies were only four games over .500 on Sept. 15. They won 14 of their final 15 games, including 11 straight, to capture a wild-card bid. The sizzling stretch carried them into the World Series.

“What happened is what happens with every team that goes on a streak,” Hurdle said. “More often than not, you get a really good start (from the pitcher). More often than not, you answer with two-out hits that score runs; you play good defense. When your starter throws a shoe, somebody from your bullpen shuts it down from there, and your offense sparks.

“It's a perfect storm. Your confidence builds, and your ability to play in the moment increases. Some of the anxiety you might've had at different times in the season, you get it out. It's getting back to that place where you're 6 and you're playing in the back yard. It's something we need to recapture. We know it's in here, but it's taking it out on the field and playing a complete game.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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