By Matt Popchock

DENVER (93-7 THE FAN) — In 2007 manager Clint Hurdle abruptly turned the Rockies into a playoff team, and on Friday he led the Pirates (70-44), the current National League flag-bearer, into Coors Field to meet Colorado (52-64) for a three-game series in an effort to inch closer to the team’s first playoff berth and winning season since before the Rockies existed.

With the Bucs’ magic number for postseason entry standing at 38 entering Friday, Hurdle caught up with Troy Renck of the Denver Post to discuss his triumphant return.

As of Friday, he has posted an all-time winning percentage over .500 as the skipper in Pittsburgh. Not even Jim Leyland, the last man to guide the Pirates into the postseason, finished the Pittsburgh portion of his managerial career with an all-time winning record.

Renck talks with Hurdle about how he has become a more careful defensive tactician, and how the Pirates have managed the best team ERA in the National League, despite his bullpen having to eat a robust amount of innings.

“It wasn’t by accident. It was the blueprint when I got here,” Hurdle told the newspaper. “I don’t know any organization that doesn’t preach it. You might get taken in a different direction because of the personnel you have. In Colorado…our talent was on the other side of the ball. Then going to Texas (as a hitting coach), I saw it again. Offensively here we are just trying to connect the dots. Our guys have bought into pitching and defense.

“They really get it, that those things can show up every day.”

Reserve shortstop Clint Barmes, who has played for Hurdle in nine of his 11 big-league seasons–including that lightning-in-a-bottle 2007 Colorado club–can corroborate that.

Defensively, he has held his own as his second season as a Pirate winds down, but offensively, he has scuffled. Still, Barmes, who has hit an improved .261 over the past month with a .703 OPS and six doubles in that span, is benefiting from Hurdle’s infectious personality.

Like teammates and fans, he, too, is starting to believe.

“He’s still the same. He’s in charge,” Barmes said of Hurdle. “He brings energy every day.”

Click here to read the full story by Renck.

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