4/7/2013 4:28 P.M. ET
Bucs confident their bats on verge of busting out
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Pirates awoke on the first Sunday of the 2013 season in the grips of a fascinating offensive slump. When you have fewer hits through five games than 19 other Major League clubs have runs and are the last team to hit a home run ... well, try to embrace the novelty.
Particularly because Clint Hurdle and everyone else in a Pittsburgh uniform remains confident we're witnessing an extended lull before a significant storm.
"For me, it's a matter of time before it clicks. And when it clicks, it's going to be good," said coach Jeff Branson, who assists batting coach Jay Bell. "The biggest thing is, we can't panic. We just have to keep them mentally intact, reassure them it's just something they're going through, and it's going to turn around."
The Bucs took a team average of .117 into Sunday's game. They had a total of 17 hits. The Kansas City Royals had 19 hits on Friday alone.
"It's going to come," said A.J. Burnett, already a two-time victim of the silenced attack, "and it's going to come in bunches. Our main thing is to stay as positive as possible, not let anything negative creep into our minds."
The club has faced prime pitching -- such as former Cy Young Award winners Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the first two games of this series at Dodger Stadium -- but resisting self-doubt is tough for big league hitters reluctant to concede pitchers too much credit.
"And I don't believe you should give too much credit to the pitcher," Bell said. "But when you face guys like that, you've got to realize you're going to have a tough time and move on."
Hurdle's take: "It's a fine line. You tip your cap when appropriate, but at the same time you got to make sure you're doing everything you can, that when mistakes are made, you do something with them."
• Russell Martin took a bench seat for the first time Sunday as Michael McKenry made his first start of the season behind the plate. Martin, hitless in 14 at-bats, is no stranger to slow starts: A year ago, he began 4-for-32 with the Yankees and did not hit his first of 21 homers until April 20.
• Brandon Inge was back in Indianapolis' lineup on Sunday at second base, as he continues his Triple-A rehab from a fractured right scapula. Inge was 0-for-8, with three walks, in his first three games with the Indians.
By the numbers
.176: The opposition's batting average with men in scoring position (6-for-34) through five games against Pirates pitchers.
"We're going to hit a homer. We're going to hit one." -- Manager Clint Hurdle before Sunday's game, when Andrew McCutchen's first-inning two-run shot ended the Pirates' home run drought to open the 2013 season.
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.