The Pirates put together one of their most entertaining, inspiring and, in the end, maddening performances Friday evening at PNC Park, losing to the Brewers, 7-6, in extra innings.
Down 6-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Starling Marte added a one-out sacrifice fly to bring in the Pirates' second run of the game. Josh Bell stepped to the plate for the next at-bat, two runners on, with Jung Ho Kang on deck.
Then this happened:
Here's where things get wild. Before the game at PNC Park, Clint Hurdle met with media members for his usual pregame interview session. Asked about how the Pirates have maintained a level head through a roller-coaster 2019, he offered the following:
"This club has been very, very methodical and professional in their daily approach, and they found ways to celebrate things even when we haven't gotten the right result at the end of the game, which has kept good balance I think," Hurdle was saying. " ... Different people outside these walls are going to evaluate each series in a different way. How many times do you guys ask me, 'How important is this series? How important is your next road trip?' ... I get it. It's all important. But you know what's most important? Today's game."
He wasn't done there.
"We're not in control of the games that are behind us, and we definitely aren't in control of the games that are in front of us," he continued. "And that sounds — I don't know what it sounds like — I just know it works. When teams really focus on it and do it together, it works really well. And our guys have been really good at having that mindset."
Then, the cherry.
"They're going to give it everything they got tonight, and we'll figure out what we did well and what we didn't do well," Hurdle said. "We'll reset the trap for tomorrow then we're going to get a break then we're going to get to go to Chicago. But we need to take care of what's in front of us right now. Milwaukee's in town, and they're a good ball club."
"Give it everything they got" they did, Mr. Hurdle. Nobody's going to make Nostradamus comparisons for that evaluation, but this does show Hurdle's accurate and focused understanding of his team's makeup. He knows who they are. He knows what they can do and how they'll react to adversity. He's seen it repeatedly and spectacularly throughout this season. Because of that, something like a five-run ninth inning no longer surprises him.
It doesn't surprise Bell either.
"I think we know," Bell offered after the game at his locker. "I think, drop of the hat, we can score five, six runs."
Down by five, last chance, does Hurdle pull out any special stops to rally his troops? Is there a pep talk or anything of the sort?
I asked Bell just that:
"It's just knowing that we gotta play out 27 outs," Bell said. "If there [are] outs to be made, we believe that we can scratch runs across. One through nine, our lineup's really stacked, so it's just taking care of our at-bats and taking it one pitch at a time."
And then Bell closed with this, something that undoubtedly comes as no surprise to Hurdle or to anyone else inside that locker room.
"We're just hoping to strike first and strike early tomorrow," Bell concluded.
They'll have their shot Saturday at 4:05 p.m. Our own John Perrotto will be live on the scene with all the coverage of that one.
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