PITTSBURGH -- Do September games against a team like the Chicago Cubs -- 86 losses, coming off a one-sided four-game sweep in Washington -- faze a contender such as the Pirates? Do teams that have nothing to lose get in the heads of teams that have everything to gain?
"I know the manager [Dale Sveum] and his staff, and he expects a lot out of his club," said Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle. "He's not gonna back away from the flame now. They come from a series that was very challenging, so I'm sure they're ornery.
"You've gotta go and play. We don't take anything for granted; we haven't won anything yet."
From a pragmatic standpoint, the true challenge is managing against the bloated rosters with which also-rans show up in September. The Cubs hit town with 29 players -- which is not an exaggerated number, yet still strategically testing.
"There are only three, four guys in these lineups you can even attempt to leverage," said Hurdle, referring to making effective pitching moves. "Anyone else, they're gonna flip a pinch-hitter on you. The Astros did it to us [in the previous series], and the Cubs have four, five spots like that today.
"But you try to not complicate the game. You do what you feel is the best move for your club."