09/09/12 1:57 PM ET
Pirates need McDonald at his best down stretch
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hurdle: Chameleon effect could be at play
PITTSBURGH -- Since entering August at their season peak -- 16 games above .500 and in second place, three games behind the Reds -- the Pirates have held their own in the tough games, going 9-11 against teams with winning records.Not a spectacular record, but considerably better than Pittsburgh's 4-13 mark over the same stretch against sub-.500 clubs. A vote for the concept of playing up, or down, to the competition? "That could be true," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle conceded. "There's probably an argument for that. A chameleon effect ... sometimes that's what happens in sports." The Bucs changed their colors on that Aug. 1 date. Until then, they owned the Majors' best record versus sub-.500 teams, at 37-15. Then they jumped tracks to that 4-13 figure. "Except, I think it's been case-specific," Hurdle said. "We, obviously, did not answer the bell in Milwaukee [being swept in a Aug. 31-Sept. 2 series the Brewers had begun with a 62-67 record]. But we did against St. Louis [taking a pair of three-game series]. "We just haven't played well," added Hurdle, looking at the broader picture and suggesting his club has been hot and cold, regardless of the opposition. "We haven't played consistently well."
Entering Sunday's action, the Pirates had dropped five straight one-run games and have gone 1-7 in them since having the National League's top record in those tight games on Aug. 9 (24-17). As expected, right-handed reliever Chad Qualls was activated off the DL prior to Sunday's game. He had been out since Aug. 25 with discomfort in his right big toe. Neil Walker (lower-back tightness) took his first left-handed swings prior to Sunday's game, Jose Tabata (left foot contusion) was available off the bench and Travis Snider (strained right hamstring) remained questionable.
"Athletes live in the moment. He's not back home polishing the June and July Player of the Month trophies."
-- Hurdle, on whether Andrew McCutchen tries to view his current modest production in the context of those two fabulous months.\i>
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.