PITTSBURGH -- As his Pirates toed the .500 line early Thursday, prior to falling 9-7 to the Brewers in the finale of a brief homestand, manager Clint Hurdle unloaded something that had clearly been on his mind:

Mounting criticism -- his word: "disdain" -- for the team's probable inability to make the postseason.

"I'm not happy with the results," Hurdle began. "What I do find interesting is a lot of the disdain I do catch.

"Two years ago, when I walked in and talked to people in the street about winning a championship, they rolled their eyes and they laughed at me. Now they're disappointed we might not be in the Wild Card. Just saying: Something's changed."

When Hurdle was hired in October 2010, he took over a team coming off a 105-loss season. In 2011, the Pirates improved from 57 to 72 wins, and have already stepped up from that with 74 wins with 13 games to go.

Parallels are being drawn between the second-half collapses of both editions, but there is a big difference. This 2012 club was still at its high-water mark of 16 games above .500 after 110 games -- a point at which the '11 Bucs were already at 54-56.

"I didn't expect us to work our way back to .500," Hurdle said. "We're not here to compete and try hard. This is not a try-hard league. To now have fans actually irate that we aren't going to win the Wild Card ... what a change. It doesn't make me feel good, but it makes me understand there's a change going on.

"We're not were we need to be, nor where we want to be. Are we headed in the right direction? Absolutely. But we have much more work to do."

In hindsight, Clint laments recent sluggishness

PITTSBURGH -- Baseball people are renowned for moving on from yesterday and never looking in the rear-view mirror. In an everyday sport like baseball, a good philosophy. Managers are best of them all at turning the page.

However, Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle allowed himself a rare moment of hindsight, prior to a 9-7 loss Thursday, to contemplate the quest for .500 having displaced the postseason as his team's practical objective.

He evidently couldn't easily let go of the Pirates' six-game run entering the day, a 2-4 stretch that has removed them from contention. Turn that into 5-1, and the Bucs are at the head of the Wild Card hunt. And in the manager's view, that would not have been much of a reach.

"I very rarely get into the 'could've' game," Hurdle said. "But we win the second game in Chicago, need to put away the third, win the fourth, and get two starts here that give us shots to win."

Instead ... the Pirates squandered leads of 6-1 and 9-5 in that third-game loss against the Cubs and dropped the first two games of the Milwaukee series despite starters A.J. Burnett and rookie Kyle McPherson combining to hold the heavy-handed Brewers to four runs in 10 1/3 innings.

"The pitching has been giving us a chance to put things together," Hurdle said. "But we have not made good adjustments with the bat. We're getting pitches to hit, but the mindset has to change."

The Pirates entered the day on a 7-20 skid that has put them in danger of finishing with a losing record for the 20th consecutive season. During that stretch, the Pirates averaged 3.6 runs per game. A third of all that scoring came on 23 home runs.

Thursday's loss was the Pirates' sixth straight at home. They have scored 15 runs in those games.

Last word

"I'm not a fan of it. You like to see the batting title won on the field, not by being removed from the game for making a bad choice. That's probably not the best way for it to end."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on the possibility of Melky Cabrera winning the National League batting title while suspended for 50 games, including 45 during the 2012 regular season, after a violation of MLB's Drug Program.

Worth noting

• Andrew McCutchen hit his 30th homer on Thursday. Pedro Alvarez has 29. The two can become the first pair of Pirates teammates to hit 30 since 2001 (Brian Giles 37, Aramis Ramirez 34).

• When the Brewers jumped Wandy Rodriguez for three runs out of the gate on Thursday, it was the 62nd time -- in 149 games -- that the Bucs' foes have scored in the first inning.