Don’t blame history. Don’t blame 19 years of bad mojo. Clint Hurdle and the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t want to hear it.
Following a 4-0 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday that left with the Pirates with a 79-83 record that extended their ignominious streak of under-.500 seasons to an even 20 in a row, the straight-talking manager offered no excuses about another promising summer gone awry.
“We needed to win more games,” he said. “Our goal was to win more games.”
Something the Pirates didn’t do enough of down the stretch. Pittsburgh was 62-46 on Aug. 8 before fading to a 17-37 finish.
A lot of the losses looked like their four-hit performance in the finale. The Pirates could muster little offensively against a steady stream of Atlanta pitchers — including the retiring Ben Sheets — and offer little support of starter A.J. Burnett (16-10), who gave up four runs in 52/3 innings.
“You have to try and take some positives from it,” said centerfield Andrew McCutchen, who had one hit in the finale to finish second behind San Francisco’s Buster Posey for the NL batting title with a .327 average.
The Pirates were the talk of baseball over the summer behind a pitching staff that flourished behind Burnett, who embraced the roll of ace the team desperately needed. He won eight straight decisions in the spring but tailed off over the final two months and couldn’t avoid his fifth loss in his six starts, though he exited to a warm ovation.
Jason Heyward singled twice and scored two runs and Luis Avilan (1-0) picked up the victory but the day belonged to a pair of veterans making one last stand.
Third baseman Chipper Jones provided a dose of magic in his final regular season game. He was inserted as a pinch hitter leading off the sixth.
The switch-hitting Jones didn’t waste any time. Standing in as a left-hander against Burnett, Jones slapped the first pitch he saw to right field for a single for the 2,726th and final regular-season hit of his career.
Sheets went out a winner in his final game.
The four-time All-Star was in the midst of an admirable comeback from a series of arm injuries this summer — going 4-4 with a 3.54 ERA — before heading to the disabled list in August with right shoulder issues.