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.
Grilli thrilled to be in uni, not in recovery from surgery
PITTSBURGH -- It's difficult for Pirates closer Jason Grilli to be a spectator, but the way he sees it, things could be much worse. Grilli is just happy to be back with his teammates on Monday -- dressed in full gear, even if he won't take the field -- and not under a doctor's knife.
"I've been cheering from the TV the last few days," Grilli said. "It's been hard to watch baseball going on, but I'm here in this clubhouse and not on the surgery table. So this is the best-case scenario for right now."
Grilli was back after being sent home from Washington on July 22, when he injured his arm in the series opener vs. the Nationals. The club announced on Friday that he is not a candidate for surgery.
Grilli was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday after being diagnosed with a flexor strain in his right arm, and he will be reevaluated in about seven to 10 days. An estimated return date will be more clear after that followup, but Grilli said on Monday that he isn't done for the year and has dealt with much worse. The recovery for this injury typically takes about four to eight weeks.
The National League saves leader is not anxious about the coming reevaluation because he already knows the severity of the injury. It's just a matter of how his body responds.
"I'm going to be ready before the season's out," he said. "You can mark my word on that."
Grilli, 36, fractured his elbow in 2000 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2002, but this injury, he said, is no different from a position player pulling a hamstring; it's muscular, not related to the tendon. He added that he didn't feel "like myself" in that game against Washington, but he immediately knew he hadn't damaged the ligament in the elbow.
Grilli wouldn't say whether he had been hurting prior to that but offered this:
"[There's] a lot of guys in this whole league that aren't playing 100 percent," he said. "We're not in the same condition right now. This is what you do as an athlete. You subject yourself to play when you're not 100 percent every day you're out there."
First number, last word
18-1: The Pirates' home record, entering Monday's game, when Andrew McCutchen collects two or more hits
"Maybe it's time for some of those numbers to fall. We'll have a chance to do something about it off the mound." -- Hurdle, on the Cardinals' averages with runners in scoring position
• Alex Presley, recalled on Monday to take the roster spot of catcher Michael McKenry, who was placed on the disabled list, could have a busy tenure with the Bucs. Hurdle made a point of noting that the team will face nine right-handers during its 11-game homestand.
• Double-A Altoona outfielder Alex Dickerson has been on fire for two months, and he now has a second Eastern League Player of the Week Award in three weeks to show for it. Through Sunday, Dickerson went 12-for-30 with four doubles and two homers, sustaining a spree that has seen him hit .360 and 11 home runs since the beginning of June. Dickerson was the Pirates' third-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
• The current set is the second five-game series in PNC Park history, taking place on the 12th anniversary of the first one: July 26-29, 2001, against the Astros.
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.