For most of the afternoon, watching this game just made me mad. The Pirates left runners on base all over the field, they left Ross Ohlendorf on the mound for a sixth inning that he obviously didn't have in him, they ran into outs at terrible junctures, and Clint Hurdle decided to bust out the bunt with his cleanup hitter at the plate and the go-ahead run on first. And then Pedro Alvarez cued a ball into no-man's land behind the pitcher, Starlin Castro made the only mistake he made in the entire series, Neil Walker and Nick Leyva made a super-heads up call on the base paths, and the Pirates won.
I'm not here to complain about a Pirate win; they hit the ball hard off of Garza all day, they did what they had to do against Marmol, who's the sort of guy that should give their offense trouble, and they made some nifty plays in the field (also, some not-so-nifty plays in the field, but hey, something's better than nothing). Ohlendorf looked good early on before tailing off a bit later in the game, and Crotta, Karstens, and Hanrahan were excellent over the last three innings to make up for yesterday's bullpen debacle. The Pirates did a lot of good things today, and they won in the end (though Ronny Cedeno's bad throw on Hanrahan's first double play ball was about as heart-attack inducing as any play in early April can be).
But yeesh, small ball and mindlessly aggressive base-running is going to cost the Pirates more games than it helps them win in the end. I understand that conventional baseball wisdom is to send a runner from third on a relatively deep fly ball no matter who that runner is, just to make the outfielder throw the ball. But on that play? The Pirates had the bases loaded, one out, and the top of the lineup up. If Jaramillo plants himself at third, they still have Garrett Jones up against the righty Wood with the bases loaded. Jaramillo is sooooo slooooooooow that I just don't like taking the bat out of the offense's hands there. We'd been hitting the ball all day. Why risk it with a guy as slow as Jaramiilo?
And Overbay's bunt ... I know it's a defensible play, both from the traditional baseball standpoint and a sabermetric one. My problem is that the benefit of the bunt is minimal -- according to FanGraphs, the Pirates had a 44.8% chance of winning before Overbay's bunt and a 45.2% chance of winning after it -- and the mindset that leads to having your cleanup hitter, a guy with two hits on the day and a guy that absolutely lit things up in spring training, square around to bunt with the game on the line instead of letting him swing away is just unacceptable to me. Overbay, Walker, Tabata, all these guys are on the roster to hit and they should be allowed to do so. The bunt worked out today, but that sort of over-reliance on the bunt will almost certainly cost the Pirates more runs than it will earn them in the long run.
I really don't mean to rain on the parade here; the Pirates came into Chicago and faced three good pitchers. They got a lot of hits, they drew some hugely important walks (even today, they only drew one walk but it was Jones's off of Marmol to start the ninth), they got three starts that ranged from good to good enough, the bullpen was excellent besides one ugly inning, they won two games on the road after a season in which they only won 17 all year, and they won today on a great heads-up play by Walker (and Leyva, who I'm pretty sure waved him around) today. It's a great way to start the season and I guess for now, that's all that's important.
Can/should NH step in about the bunting? Given Hurdle's history in COL, I don't think it's too early to think it's a very bad trend.
@azibuck I dunno, I feel like JR used to bunt a lot early in the season with guys like McLouth before letting it tail of as the season went on. I kind of wonder if this isn't some kind of early-season establishing of dominance in the clubhouse sort of thing. As I mentioned above, Hurdle is apparently saying that some of the bunts were miscommunication though not Overbay's bunt. We'll see.
One of the weirdest things about a pretty weird game was Garza's line--how does a guy get 12Ks with no walks...and give up 12 hits?
I agree with your comments about Overbay completely. I was actually thinking the very same thing when I watched it happen. When Neil Huntington signed Lyle Overbay (Or when ANY GM adds a new cleanup hitter to any lineup), I don't imagine he pictured him bunting in key situations. I can only imagine how Milwaukee would have reacted if Prince Fielder laid down a bunt in the same situation.
To me, it's crazy to think they were one inning yesterday from being 3-0. Granted, today was a game you can argue they shouldn't have won (as compared to yesterday), but man is this a lot nicer to see. I wonder how different the game would have went with Cutch in center and Tabata in left instead of Diaz and him needing a compass to find his way to the ball on that second Castro triple.
I think Hurdle argued more calls during the opening three games of this season than Russell did during his entire tenure.
And, besides one bad inning, they had a pretty good Chicago trip.
Am I reading the box score right - 16 hits, and all of them singles? I like that it shows a good day at the plate.
Why wasn't McCutchen playing?
@nickjuneau24 Apparently 'Cutch tweaked his neck diving for a ball on Saturday and was a last second scratch. Doesn't sound serious.