PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have certainly faced, and been subdued by, more than their share of blue-chip pitchers this young season. But there was still something different about Thursday's loss to Washington's Stephen Strasburg.
The Bucs were angry, disappointed, rueful about it. Not a single "Oh, well. He's tough. It'll be all good when we see someone easier" shrug.
And manager Clint Hurdle loved the remorse.
"Absolutely," Hurdle said. "We had a chance to win the game against a very good pitcher throwing a very dominating effort. For them to feel that way is a good sign. You've got to beat 1s and 2s if you want to be a championship team. Look past them, and you'll finish in third or fourth place with that mentality.
"You have to find a way to compete against those guys, to dig those wins out of the dirt."
The Bucs had Strasburg down, 2-0. After the Nationals rallied to take a 3-2 lead, three consecutive batters waited out Strasburg for walks in the sixth, giving Pittsburgh another legitimate shot at spoiling his evening.
"We had a true window of opportunity to get that done, and we missed it," Hurdle said. "We're not going to face anyone all year with any better stuff than last night. So we know where that bar was set. We learned a lot of lessons from that game."
"It says a lot for this team that a lot of guys in here expected to win that game," said shortstop Clint Barmes. "That game and that series (the Bucs took the first two after the Nationals hit town with an 18-10 record) says so much about how good we can be."