PITTSBURGH -- The Orioles, Athletics and Nationals -- all recently downtrodden franchises which among them have had 27 consecutive non-winning seasons -- are all in the postseason.

You bet Clint Hurdle, manager of a Pirates club whose depression continues, has noticed, with a mixture of envy and hope.

"You feel the frustration, and some disappointment, definitely," Hurdle said. "We were right there among those clubs. They finished, and we didn't finish."

For comparison's sake, on Aug. 8, these were the teams' records:

• Pirates: 63-47.
• Nationals: 68-43
• Orioles: 60-51
• A's: 60-51

"At the same time, there's optimism," Hurdle added, "because the game is proving itself to be a game where if you execute over a long period of time, you're going to have a chance to get in.

"And it's not just the big-money markets," Hurdle went on, citing a popular alibi. "The teams that are in have played well. And the pitching for the most part has carried each and every one of them."

Barajas to catch A.J. again, then future uncertain

PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Burnett will be on the mound for Wednesday afternoon's season finale. So Rod Barajas will be behind the plate, as the battery looks for an upbeat sign off to its reunion season.

Thereafter, their fates might diverge. Burnett will be back on the PNC Park mound in 2013, but Barajas' return to the Pirates is undecided.

The Bucs are virtually certain to decline the $3.5 million option they hold for 2013 on Barajas, which will not mean the club does not want him back. Rather, Barajas showed his cards a while ago, expressing an interest in returning to Pittsburgh even on a renegotiated deal.

In discussing the status of the 37-year-old catcher, manager Clint Hurdle was extremely candid -- as Barajas himself has been. All of the veteran's valuable intangibles have to be weighed against a .208 batting average, as well as a decline as a deterrent to opponents' running game.

"His ability to coach up pitchers and make in-game adjustments, and leadership skills, were very beneficial," Hurdle said. "He wanted more from the offensive side, and we were hoping for more.

"We'll have to make a relatively quick decision [contract options must be acted upon within five days after the conclusion of the World Series], and you look at what the alternatives might be. Is he a No. 1 or turning into a No. 2? Is it Michael McKenry's time to be a No. 1? Is there another No. 1 out there? We've had those conversations with Rod, and he understands very honestly where he is at this point of time in his career."

The Last Word

"How good do you want to be? How good do you want us to be? What can you do this winter so when you show up in Spring Training, you make people go, 'Wow. I didn't see that when he left?'"
-- Hurdle, paraphrasing part of his season-ending exit interviews with his players.

Worth noting

• Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is one of the three finalists for 2012 Player of the Year, the highest of the Players Choice Awards presented by the Major League Baseball Players Association and voted upon by its member players. The co-finalists are Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout of the Angels. The Players Choice Awards will be presented on MLB Network's November telecast.

• Monday night's 2-1 win -- the Bucs fell behind 1-0 in the top of the third -- was the club's 37th comeback victory of the season. Amazingly, however, to underscore the tailspin of the last six weeks, it was the first since Aug. 19, date of the 19-inning win in St. Louis.

• Interestingly, the teams bringing down the regular-season curtain at PNC Park are ending a season against each other for the first time since 1964, when the Pirates went out against the Milwaukee Braves.

• Entering Tuesday night's game, the Pirates have played five consecutive one-run games, losing three of them to drop their record in the tight decisions below .500 (28-29). The 28 victories in one-run games rank fourth in the National League, trailing the Reds (31) and the Dodgers and Giants (29 each).