In spoiler role, Bucs motivated by strong finish

Club conducts extensive exit interviews; Pittsburgh BBWAA chapter hands out awards

In spoiler role, Bucs motivated by strong finish

ST. LOUIS -- Even with the postseason out of the question and the offseason only three days away, manager Clint Hurdle isn't worried about the Pirates kicking up their feet and taking it easy this weekend.

The Pirates have a chance to directly affect the National League Wild Card race as they wrap up the regular season with the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. After the Bucs fell, 7-0, on Friday night, the Cards remained one game behind the Giants for the second NL Wild Card spot. But with two games remaining, a Bucs win combined with a Giants win on Saturday would eliminate the Cards from the postseason.

Since they were mathematically eliminated, several Pirates have talked about the opportunity to play spoiler, to keep a division rival out of the playoffs. Hurdle believes that won't be the only motivating factor for the Bucs in their final series.

"They want to play. They want to play well," Hurdle said. "One of the things I've shared with every team I've ever had: For me, it's really simple. There is a name on the front of the jersey, and there's a name on the back of the jersey -- and you go represent both. That's it. That's where it starts. It doesn't matter if it's one or 162. … Those guys will go out and play. Not a doubt in my mind."

One reason the Pirates will start veteran Ryan Vogelsong in Sunday's finale instead of a younger arm who will return next season, Hurdle said, is respect for the competition. The Pirates also don't view one October start as a difference-maker in terms of evaluation.

Vogelsong fans six in gem

"I do believe that, right now, all these games mean something for us playing them," Hurdle said. "Ryan's buy-in is going to be bigger than anybody else's buy-in in that clubhouse to go out and pitch a good ballgame."

Moving to the exits
The Pirates completed a full round of exit interviews over the last few weeks, as general manager Neal Huntington and Hurdle sat down individually with 39 players to discuss their season and offseason plans. They met for at least 20 minutes -- often longer, occasionally much longer -- with each player, bringing in an interpreter or position coach where necessary.

"It's never not good because you pore into people, you develop trust. You listen to people, you develop trust," Hurdle said. "It was very refreshing every year to hear the guys that had never done that before walk away and go, 'Wow.'"

Awards season
The Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected Starling Marte as this year's winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the team's most valuable player.

Marte hit .311/.362/.456 with nine homers, 46 RBIs and 47 steals while leading the team with 4.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to, despite missing most of September due to lower back tightness.

Marte's solo home run to center

Jameson Taillon received the Steve Blass Award as the club's best pitcher; Ivan Nova finished second. Taillon finished his rookie season 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA and led the club's staff with 2.5 WAR.

Reliever Jared Hughes was honored with the Chuck Tanner Award, presented to the player who is most cooperative in dealing with the media.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.