5/28/2014 7:25 P.M. ET
Pirates used to playing tight ballgames
By Tim Healey / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- For all that's been made of the Pirates' tendency to be involved in one-run games this season, manager Clint Hurdle wants to be clear: it really isn't anything new.
Pittsburgh has a 14-11 record in those close games so far, meaning nearly half of their 52 contests are decided by a single run. The team also played in 52 such games last year and 57 in 2012. Hurdle's first year on the Pittsburgh bench in '11 featured 43 one-run decisions.
Hurdle and his staff use it to illustrate a common teaching point.
"What we've done is we've taken this and packaged it in a different presentation to our club," Hurdle said. "The fact that this is who we are, these are the games we're going to play, so every pitch counts, every pitch matters. We can't take pitches off. The execution's got to be there. The focus has got to be acute.
"You're going to have fun and all that, but just let them know, we can't take pitches off in anything we do. This is the way we're built."
This season in particular, one-run games have been something of a bright spot for the Bucs. At 23-29, the team is six games under .500 overall, but it is three over .500 in the tightest games. Across the four seasons, the Pirates own a 92-85 record in one-run games.
"We're not uncomfortable playing the games," Hurdle said. "We kind of expect the games to go that way."
McCutchen's outstanding grab draws raves
NEW YORK -- Even a day after the fact, Andrew McCutchen's highlight-reel catch in center field during Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Mets had many talking. McCutchen said it was one of the best three he's ever made. Manager Clint Hurdle put it in the top five he's seen, right up there with one McCutchen previously made at Citi Field when he dove toward the right-center field wall.
An additional variable in Tuesday's grab -- McCutchen ran a long way toward right-center before laying out in the third inning -- was the batter he robbed: Juan Lagares. Lagares, the Mets' center fielder, took one away from McCutchen in the first inning when he made a leaping catch at the 390-foot marker in right-center.
"Just the distance covered, completely laid out, into the glove," Hurdle said of McCutchen's play. "Magnificent, just magnificent."
It was also a moment of redemption for McCutchen, who had a fly ball glance off his glove for a two-base error in the first inning. He and left fielder Starling Marte converged in left-center and, despite both men apparently calling for the ball, let it drop in.
"They both called the ball at the same time," Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, those things can happen, but you don't like it when they do."
McCutchen visiting both ends of the fielding spectrum in the same game isn't necessarily surprising. FanGraphs.com's Ultimate Zone Rating -- a defensive statistic that attempts to measure how many runs a fielder costs or saves his team -- has McCutchen at -0.9 this season.
That's 14th out of 21 qualifying center fielders -- the very bottom of the middle-third. Comparatively, Lagares ranks sixth with a 2.3 rating. Angels center fielder Mike Trout tops the list at 7.7.
"My job is to make the catch if I feel like I can get it. That's what I try to do every time," McCutchen said. "You hate to miss things like that, have a ball like that. I know I'm better than that. I try to go get it, like I always do."
• Hurdle was coy when questioned about the progress of Gregory Polanco, the Pirates' top prospect and the No. 12 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com's rankings. Hurdle said he last talked with Triple-A Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor on Sunday.
"He's moving along fine," Hurdle said. "Making progress."
Polanco, 22, is batting .345 with a .408 on-base percentage and .558 slugging mark in 50 games with Indianapolis. He has only played right field this season after mostly manning center the last two years.
• Charlie Morton's 61 percent ground-ball rate entering his start Wednesday is tops in the Majors since the start of 2013.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.