PITTSBURGH -- Manager Clint Hurdle often talks about having watched George Brett's 1980 campaign when the two were teammates with the Royals, calling it the most consistently phenomenal offensive season he has ever witnessed.
That was the season in which Brett made a serious run at hitting .400 -- his average was at .400 as late as Sept. 19 -- before "settling" for .390.
But that was also the season in which Brett hit .469 with men in scoring position, a clutch mark that has not been approached until now, with St. Louis' Allen Craig bringing into town an average of .485 with men on second and/or third.
Hurdle's experiences with Brett heighten his admiration for Craig's -- and the Cardinals' -- performance.
"That number will grab you," Hurdle said. "That's a high number. [The Cardinals] have a lot of high numbers. Craig's number, the team's number -- that speaks to a level of consistency that has not been seen in a long time."
Given St. Louis' .338 team average with men in scoring position, Craig is merely the leader of a sensational pack.
A couple of perspectives on just how sensational:
The Pirates are batting .222 with men in scoring position, much closer to the league mean of .251. For their average to descend to the Bucs' mark, the Cardinals would have to go 0-for-their-next-448 with men in scoring position.
Conversely, the Bucs could raise their average to the Redbirds' by going 150-for-150.
Yet another aspect that brought a twinkle to Hurdle's eyes: In almost the same number of at-bats with men in scoring position (855, to the Cards' 857), the Pirates have exactly 100 fewer hits -- but entered Monday night's game with only one less win.
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.