Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sports

Pirates still far from satisfied

PITTSBURGH — Where most saw misery and chaos, Clint Hurdle saw something else entirely.

When Hurdle took over as Pirates manager in December 2010, he spoke about electrifying the city. He preached optimism then went out and practiced it every day while talking about a vision that went far beyond returning a moribund franchise to respectability.

It's why Hurdle isn't satisfied after leading Pittsburgh to a 94-68 record and its first playoff berth in 21 years. It's why he doesn't view tonight's wild-card game against the Reds as the culmination of three years of patience, progress and pragmatism.

Press Hurdle on how detailed he allowed his vision to get and he leans forward for emphasis.

"To win a sixth World Series," he said.

First things first.

The team that spent all summer defying expectations must find a way to do it again when it hosts the first playoff game in Pittsburgh in 7,660 days. Coming off a weekend sweep in Cincinnati that gave them home-field advantage for the wild card, the Pirates have to press reset while trying not to get caught up in hype not seen in the city since Barry Bonds bolted for the Giants 21 years ago.

"What happened over the weekend," Hurdle said, "doesn't matter."

Neither do the six months that came before it, though Hurdle believes his team has all the hallmarks required to make sure this postseason appearance will extend beyond a cameo.

"I like the grit factor," he said, "and the lessons we've learned."

Lessons hard won on a roster that is baseball's version of Ellis Island, a mixture of veterans looking to revive their careers and an exciting young core that includes leading MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen and ace-in-training Gerrit Cole.

Perhaps it's fitting Francisco Liriano will start the team's most important game in a generation. The left-hander signed a two-year deal with the Pirates last winter that turned out to be one of baseball's best bargains, and he has found a home in a clubhouse that wasn't always the most welcoming.

"In the beginning, when people came here, it was more of a rehabilitation center," McCutchen said. "I mean it's true. Guys came here toward the end of their career, saying this is going to boost them up, maybe they can have a big year so they can go somewhere else."

The Reds will try to make the Pirates wait a year before taking the next step. They got a boost with the return of right-hander Johnny Cueto, who missed most of the season with back problems but has been solid since his return Sept. 16. They are likely to have second baseman Brandon Phillips, who left Saturday's game with a leg injury.

Cueto has been clutch vs. the Pirates. He is 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA in 21 career starts against Pittsburgh and 8-2, 1.90 at PNC Park.

"I don't know how to explain it," Cueto said. "I just do my job."

Comments
Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Aside from former Florida State safety Derwin James, the most likely first-round pick from a state college is ex-Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan.He hopes, at least."That would (stink) if I didn't," Bryan said last month at Florida's pro da...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning wait for its next playoff opponent to come to town, the city’s business community — large and small — say they’ve already won this NHL postseason.At WestShore Plaza this week, with blue and white banners surrounding...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

TAMPA —These smart phones and computers and internet are big annoyances to Sister Madonna Buder.Every time she turns around, there's a message or a request or a question coming into one of her devices from somewhere in the world."What's all the...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning to face Bruins in East semifinals

Lightning to face Bruins in East semifinals

The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 7-4 in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night and will face the Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals beginning Saturday at Amalie Arena. Here is the semifinal schedule: Saturday: at Tamp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

TAMPA – This is the Rubiks Cube of NFL drafts. It can be twisted and turned it in any direction. Not many know how everything will line up.For the Bucs, the puzzle is simple.  Since they have the No. 7 overall pick, they need four quarterb...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

We've linked to a lot of mock drafts over the last four months.We went back and assembled mocks from 40 different NFL writers we've linked to — this isn't the most recent for some of these who are in Mock 9.0 mode, but it's meant as an unscient...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Don’t call it a comeback: Jonny Venters return to majors with Rays much more than that

Don’t call it a comeback: Jonny Venters return to majors with Rays much more than that

BALTIMORE — First, think of what you were doing on Oct. 5, 2012, and how much has happened in your own world since then.That will give you a time frame.Next, think of the challenge of rehabbing from two Tommy John surgeries and a third procedur...
Updated: 6 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 25

Wednesday’s scoreboardBaseballCanterbury 5, Shorecrest 4SoftballClass 6A, District 6 Semifinal: Springstead 10, Citrus 0
Updated: 7 hours ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseballTwins at Yankees1 p.m.MLBRays at Orioles7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMBrewers at Cubs8 p.m.MLBCollege baseballAuburn at Florida7 p.m.ESPNULSU at Mississippi 8 p.m.SECCollege lacrosse, womenACC tournament: Louisville vs. Boston College11 a.m.FSFAC...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Softball: Boca Ciega edges Tarpon Springs for 6A-9 title

Softball: Boca Ciega edges Tarpon Springs for 6A-9 title

DUNEDIN — It's hard to believe that we'll see a more emotional, more exciting game than this one throughout the rest of the postseason.Top seed Tarpon Springs and No. 2 Boca Ciega were fearless with the Class 6A-9 title on the line Wednesd...
Updated: 8 hours ago