Hurdle undeterred by Bucs' Central woes

Manager: 'Our focus needs to be on playing better' entering huge series in St. Louis

Hurdle undeterred by Bucs' Central woes

MILWAUKEE -- And now the Bucs get to go from the horseshoe to the whole darned horse.

That was Andrew McCutchen's take of Miller Park, where the Pirates felt the broom whiskers of another sweep with Thursday night's 5-3 loss to the Brewers.

"It always seems like there's a horseshoe on that other side every time we come here and play them," said McCutchen, blaming a popular talisman for the Brewers' 61 wins in 78 games with the Bucs in Milwaukee since 2007.

Now the Pirates go to St. Louis, where a whole team of Clydesdales await for the first of two September National League Central showdowns with the Cardinals, who lead the Bucs by 6 1/2 games. The Pirates are still going for the brass ring -- track record against the division be danged.

"This is the one area we've not done as well as we believe we should," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The numbers are what they are."

But … 21-32 overall against the NL Central and 7-21 on the road … for a team with still the second-best record in the league and the third best in the Majors? What kind of aberration is this?

"One of the things we need to be mindful of -- and I share this with the guys -- is that past performance doesn't need to predict future performance," Hurdle said. "Past performance needs to be used as information for present success. This can happen from time to time … I went through it in Colorado, with our road record. We couldn't win on the road -- until all of a sudden we did."

"If we play our best ball, nobody can beat us," McCutchen said. "These last [four games], we really haven't been playing our best. We haven't been too good against teams in our division, we know that."

"You've been around this team enough to know how we respond," Hurdle said. "We've pushed through it before. I remember getting beat up and then rolling on … it has happened many times."

Hurdle, a disciple of the "feelings aren't facts" school, tends to believe that professional players check their emotional baggage at the door out of the clubhouse. Yet the Bucs seem to have a hard time whenever the needle on the Busch Stadium pressure gauge enters the red zone.

Since the start of the 2013 season -- the onset of their current championship-caliber era, mind you -- the Bucs have gone 7-21 in Busch Stadium, including the 2013 NL Division Series.

And there's more: The Pirates' victories have been by an average margin of 5 1/2 runs; in the same stretch, however, they are 0-10 in one-run games on the Cardinals' turf, in front of their red-clad nation.

The onset of deja vu is something else they will have to fight if the showdown games are tight heading into the late innings.

"Our focus needs to be on playing better," Hurdle said, "and we get a new opportunity [in St. Louis], that's the way look at it."

Hurdle also looked at Miller Park in his rearview.

"We're ready to move on," he said. "It's time to go play in St. Louis."

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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.