It has not all been bad, as the Pirates have drawn eight walks off St. Louis' starting pitchers this series entering Saturday. But in a handful of key at-bats during the first two games -- both of which the Pirates lost -- there was a glaring absence of patience that the situation called for.
"At times, we're doing all the right things to get ourselves in position to score, and then it's almost like we forgot that process of how we got there," Hurdle said. "I'm encouraged by the way we're getting on base, but it's discouraging when we fire quickly in those situations and make outs on soft pitches on the first pitch. That has been something that has been in our way throughout the season."
Hurdle added that shortstop Ronny Cedeno is not the poster boy for the lack of plate discipline, but Cedeno's fifth-inning at-bat on Friday was the most maddening of the 5-4 loss. With the bases loaded and against a pitcher that had just walked Josh Harrison on four straight pitches, Cedeno offered at Jake Westbrook's first pitch.
If Cedeno was anticipating a fastball, he guessed wrong. Westbrook threw a slider that Cedeno popped up for an easy third out. Cedeno was not in the lineup on Saturday, though Hurdle said that had more to do with the fact that he had started each of the team's last 17 games. He was, though, specifically benched twice earlier this season because of focus issues.
For Cedeno, these last five weeks will be critical. The Pirates still must decide whether to pick up his $3 million option for 2012. Cedeno has had stellar stretches on defense this year, but there have been frustrating lapses of focus on both the defensive and offensive ends from time to time.
"We've got to figure out if he's the guy for the future or if we need to go find better," Hurdle said. "That is still the question. We've worked very hard with Ronny, and he has been receptive to the challenges. How much longer are you going to ask, 'Is there more there or is this what you get?' And if this is what you get, is that enough?"