Slumping J-Hay sees end of 'storm' nearing

2nd baseman in first skid of season, but he feels he's not far off

Slumping J-Hay sees end of 'storm' nearing

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Harrison anchored the Pirates' lineup for the better part of three months, a consistently strong presence in a group plagued by injuries, absences and slumps. Combined with his defensive versatility, Harrison's reliable bat was enough to make him Pittsburgh's lone All-Star.

But Harrison has hit his first skid of the season, he acknowledged after going 0-for-4 and stranding the bases loaded in the seventh inning of the Pirates' 4-0 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday night at PNC Park.

Harrison was far from solely responsible for the Bucs' scoreless night, but he was presented with the best opportunity to crack the Cards' pitching staff. He came to the plate in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs against reliever Matt Bowman, and he quickly fell into a two-strike count.

Bowman threw Harrison a splitter, up and in, and Harrison popped it up to shallow left field for the third out. Harrison felt he saw the ball well. He just missed it.

Bowman escapes bases-loaded jam

"I'm in one of those stretches right now where you can throw me something right down the middle, and I'll just miss it," Harrison said. "I'm right on the brink. Pitch that just missed, and at the end of the day, can't do anything about it."

Over the past month, Harrison has hit just .184 in 23 games. He entered that stretch slashing .305/.374/.469. Before Andrew McCutchen's turnaround, Harrison was Pittsburgh's only steady bat, day to day and month to month. But he has hit just .119 in 10 games this month, and he can notice the difference.

"Everybody's going through stretches. When you're going through them, you feel like they last forever," Harrison said. "That's how I feel now. I also feel like I'm not far from where I want to be. That's the flip side, knowing you can't get too result-oriented sometimes. You've got to fight through it."

Harrison does not obsess over his mechanics, but after Saturday's loss, he loaded up a tablet with video of his at-bats to watch before Sunday's series finale at PNC Park.

"I know it's got to be something," Harrison said. "I'm a feel guy, and I know what I need to feel. Right now, I'm not feeling it as consistent as I want to. That's part of the game, locking certain things in. I know I'm not far off, but that's the battle of baseball.

"I'm right on the brink of breaking out and getting through this storm. It's been a long storm, but I've been in the storm before. That's what I keep telling myself: Storm doesn't last always."

The Pirates had other chances to score, and they came up short against Lance Lynn and the Cards' bullpen. With runners on the corners in the second, Jordy Mercer grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Lynn escapes a jam in the 2nd

After two reached to lead off the fourth, David Freese grounded into a double play and Gregory Polanco flied out. Harrison flied out to leave two on in the fifth. Before Harrison's popout ended the seventh, pinch-hitter John Jaso flied out to left field against Bowman with two runners on and one out.

"We weren't able to make anything happen," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We got ourselves in position to score. We didn't capitalize."

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