Clint Hurdle Manager of the Year?

Bob Nightengale, national baseball writer for the USA Today, believes if the vote was tomorrow, Hurdle would win.

“(Hurdle) would be the run away winner, if not the unanimous winner of it,” Nightengale told The Fan Morning Show Wednesday. “He’s very well liked. I’ve known him for a long time. He did a great job in Colorado.”

“Then he went to Texas just for a year for a hitting coach. Guys down in Texas still rave about him and the impact. Just being a communicator, and just the presence he brings. With this being just his first year there, it’s only going to get better.”

With the Pirates’ (45-41) victory Tuesday night against the Houston Astros at PNC Park, Pittsburgh moved into sole possession of second place in the National League Central standings.

The tight race in the NL Central will “be the best run in all of baseball at the end of the season,” according to Nightengale, who said not one team will run away in the division.

“We’ll have three teams, if not four, all in contention the last two, three weeks of September,” Nightengale said.

For the first time this season, the Pirates are four games over .500, and by winning one of the next four games, the Buccos will have a winning record before the All-Star break for the first time since 1992. The St. Louis Cardinals are just one-and-a-half games ahead.

Nightengale said the baseball world knows about the winning Pirates.

“You go around talking to baseball executives and scouts, I’m in Boston right now, and everybody always talks about the Pirates and Cleveland Indians, just what a great story it is,” he said.

Nightengale said Detriot Tigers manager, and former manager of the Pirates from 1986-96, has said all year long that if the Pirates start winning, fans will come.

“And I think we’re seeing that right now,” Nightengale said.

With the trade deadline approaching, Nightengale thinks the best option for the Pirates is Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran, who is batting .283 this season.

Beltran made the 2011 All-Star team, unlike Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

“McCutchen deserves it too,” Nightengale said. “There is always so many changes the last four or five days, guys backing out, guys getting hurt. I still believe McCutchen will be on the All-Star team before the weekend is over.”

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