Hurdle: Pirates focused on task, not opponent

Hurdle: Pirates focused on task, not opponent

ATLANTA -- Welcome to the Letdown Series. That's the Braves' perspective on the four-game set with the Pirates that kicked off Monday night. A late-season occasion that very recently loomed as a huge showdown for postseason rights lost its sizzle with Atlanta's sudden elimination.

A week after the Nationals clinched the National League East here, the Pirates intend to hold the 11th celebration (of a postseason berth or a postseason series win) by a visiting team in Turner Field's 17 seasons.

The Bucs began play Monday night with a magic number of three for eliminating Milwaukee and clinching a playoff berth, and 2 1/2 games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis.

"It's not a letdown series for me," manager Clint Hurdle said. "As far as I'm concerned, the stakes are very significant. My job is to take care of what happens [in our clubhouse]."

When they arrived in Pittsburgh to open a series on Aug. 18, the Braves and Bucs had identical 64-60 records. Since then, however, Atlanta went 12-19 through its Sunday elimination. The Braves had scored 15 runs in their last nine games entering Monday.

"That doesn't affect our preparation," Hurdle said. "We prepare the way we have all season long, regardless of whether a team is swinging the bat or not. We'll stay with our approach. We're preparing our game, to beat a team."

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