8-pitch at-bat by Polanco impresses Hurdle

Outfielder put Pirates ahead with RBI single vs. Cubs lefty Coke

8-pitch at-bat by Polanco impresses Hurdle

PHOENIX -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle confirmed on Friday what people thought they were seeing on Thursday: A defining at-bat in Gregory Polanco's career.

Not for the simple reason that Polanco's seventh-inning single broke a 4-4 tie against the Cubs and gave the Bucs an eventual 5-4 win at PNC Park. It wasn't the "what" so much as the "how."

"One of the most impressive at-bats he has had. Goes into the history of him growing up," Hurdle said. "To go down 0-2 against a very good, aggressive Major League left-handed late-inning reliever … yeah."

With Josh Harrison on second base, one out and Corey Hart due up, Chicago manager Joe Maddon replaced right-hander Brian Schlitter with lefty Phil Coke -- so one knew something was up.

Coke's first act was to intentionally walk Hart and get to Polanco, at the time 1-for-6 with four strikeouts against southpaws.

"You are more focused," Polanco said about the baseball gauntlet being dropped, "and say, 'I want to win this fight.'"

Coke staggered him immediately, into an 0-2 hole.

Polanco laid off the next three pitches, "some pitches that he'd chased in the past," Hurdle said.

With the count full, he spoiled a couple of pitchers' pitches "to get some good looks [at Coke's stuff]," Hurdle said.

The eighth pitch of the battle went into left field, through the regular shortstop hole vacated by the Cubs' moderate shift. Even before Harrison was through with his slide across the plate, he was pointing a congratulatory finger at Polanco.

"To just drop anchor at 3-2," Hurdle summed up, "and put a barrel to it to beat the shift at that part of the game … one of the better at-bats he's had in his young Major League career."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com 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.