Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trying to Find Focus on a Fuzzy Miracle

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Trying to Find Focus on a Fuzzy Miracle

Article excerpt

Five years ago this week, Clint Hurdle was managing a seriously nondescript baseball team, a team going nowhere slowly, a team virtually nobody outside of its own roster would today remember had not a baseball miracle turned up in its back pocket.

That's where Hurdle is again at this hard-by-hopeless moment, at some ghostly intersection of almost the exact dimensions of calendar and won-loss record.

And again, he's groping for a miracle.

Like there's a choice.

"We were in survival mode; it was very similar, just a handful of games above .500," the Pirates manager remembered about that team three hours before the start of a desperate series with the Milwaukee Brewers. "One of the writers asked me, 'What do you have to do,' and I laughed and said, 'We have to win out.' "

The 2007 Colorado Rockies did not win out.

What they did was win 13 of their final 14 games, and 21 of 22 on the way to, of all things, the World Series.

"When it started, it wasn't exactly a situation where there was some momentum building," Hurdle said. "There was a lot of focus on whether we'd finally get to .500 locally [the Rockies hadn't had a winning season in seven years], a lot of focus on what a disappointing season it had been.

"The focus was all over the place."

While that might not be one of the top five definitions of focus, exactly, the focus for Hurdle's 2012 Pirates in their final relevant hours doesn't look much like focus either.

Or were those seven stolen bases last night against Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry and the Pirates' feckless pitchers the focus?

At one point in this still-somehow-critical best-of-three, Milwaukee had six times as many stolen bases as the Pirates had hits. At an earlier point, the point at which starter A.J. Burnett had thrown his first 45 pitches, he'd gotten exactly three outs.

I'm no expert, but those are the wrong kinds of miracles. Nothing right there qualifies you for accelerated beatification, I don't believe.

McKenry walked up to pinch hit with the bases loaded and the Pirates trailing, 4-0, in the seventh inning, a situation with vaguely miraculous undertones, but he fouled off a fastball from Jim Henderson right down Broadway, then popped out to second. …

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