PITTSBURGH -- At some point in the bottom of the third inning of Thursday night's game against the Brewers, the Pirates officially hit the quarter-pole of the 2013 season.
Prior to the start of the contest, manager Clint Hurdle talked glowingly of the team's 40-game performance. But if Hurdle was pleased, most outside of the clubhouse were downright amazed by the Pirates' 23-17 record against generally elite competition despite numerous setbacks.
Told in advance that Andrew McCutchen would be hitting .260, Neil Walker would spend two weeks on the disabled list, James McDonald would be generally ineffective before also landing on the DL, Pedro Alvarez would be back under .200 and critical '12 reliever Jared Hughes would be back at Triple-A Indianapolis, few would have given the Bucs much chance of being in line to post winning records in both April and May for the first time since 1991.
"A large number of people might've been freaked out," Hurdle said. "But I'm weird that way. I would've said, 'It's a challenge -- to get production out of other people.'"
Production from some of those non-marquee guys has been a significant source of satisfaction for Hurdle.
"I like the rotation now. The depth has never been better. I love the work the bullpen is doing," he said. "Offensively, our lineup's never been deeper, and we've still got some guys capable of doing more. Defensively, we're catching the ball. We're playing 27 outs. We're running the bases much more effectively.
"I like the direction we're headed, the effort and the attitude."
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. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.