Hurdle: Working inside part of how Bucs pitch

Hurdle: Working inside part of how Bucs pitch

PITTSBURGH -- Milwaukee right-hander Tyler Thornburg's first-pitch 94 mph fastball nailed Andrew McCutchen on the left shoulder in the bottom of the seventh Saturday night. Two outs, nobody on base -- safe conditions to have one get away.

In the top of the ninth, Arquimedes Caminero's first-pitch 98 mph fastball rattled leadoff batter Ryan Braun's knee pads. The Bucs had a 6-1 lead -- also safe conditions to misfire.

Either the PNC Park crowd was witness to the remarkable coincidence of each team being intimated via a hit on its respective headliner -- or plate umpire Cory Blaser had the right read by immediately warning both benches.

"[Blaser] thought it was warranted. … We move on," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday morning.

The incident was merely another frontier of the wild, wild Midwest being thrown open. Among Major League Baseball's six divisions, the National League Central had by far the most hit batters in 2014. Among individual league leaders, the top six were on NL Central teams, including the Bucs' Starling Marte (tied for third with 17 HBPs) and Russell Martin (No. 4 with 15).

"The game needs to be played in a specific way at a specific time. We've been pitched tight this series," Hurdle said. "We're good with that -- that's how we pitch. We understand that going in. You go up and in, the guy gets clipped -- all right, that's a hard part of the game."

Much has been made of how Hurdle has changed the Pirates' culture since assuming the helm in 2011. The props normally focus on how winning has recaptured the fanbase. But there has been another, more significant culture shift, in the clubhouse.

"The need to develop a different mindset was one of the things I talked about when I came here, immediately," the manager recalled. "It takes time to implement; time and commitment and execution. You don't go looking for confrontation, but never avoid it.

"Sometimes immediate strikes are necessary," Hurdle added on the vague notion of retaliation. "Sometimes you wait for a more leveraged strike."

But never is the intent to deliver a message. Not, at least, to outsiders.

"You're not sending a message so much as creating a mindset, for yourself. That's what I tell them: 'We're not out to send a message. We're here to deliver the goods.'"

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.