The poor performance from the bullpen tonight, with Justin Wilson and Bryan Morris both giving up runs with the Pirates tied late in the game, along with the weird bullpen useage by Clint Hurdle (I still have no idea why Bryan Morris pitched the eighth inning over Tony Watson tonight, or why Morris seems to be the guy Hurdle goes to before Watson every single time) are going to draw a lot of the ire from the fans in the immediate aftermath of this one, but it's worth noting that at one point the Pirates were down 5-0 in this game.
That happened because Jeff Locke was terrible again. Tonight his line was 4 2/3 innings, eight hits, and five runs. That's 16 runs in his last three starts, and the fourth time in his last six starts that he hasn't made it out of the fifth inning. This is a problem. The late game stuff -- particularly using Watson over Morris -- is problematic, but none of it moreso than Locke's troubles. I really don't see how they can put him back out on the mound in five days against the Cardinals. Honestly, that just seems foolish.
What makes this one so frustrating is that the Pirates scored plenty of runs on a night when the Brewers sent Kyle Lohse to the ground, they got some huge hits (Walker and Alvarez's homers feature prominently here) and dug out of a big hole, then out of a smaller one, and that still wasn't enough for the pitching staff. Games like this one are just hard to watch.
As I type this, the Cardinals lead the Reds 4-1, so it seems likely that the Pirates will drop to 1 1/2 games behind the NL Central leaders. The margin for error is getting thinner and thinner.
In the words of Jim Mora..."Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!"
I've endured this as a Pirate fan for such a long time, and after the way they've been playing lately, I don't see them avoiding the collapse this year either. Just like last year, they've gone from taking down top teams like the Reds and Cards, to not being able to beat the Brewers.
I love this team, but we have to face it. They're a cursed Franchise.
I was thinking about the ground rule double and runners from first not being allowed to score. Why is that not determined by a judgement call from the ump? The game is filled with judgement calls, many people even embrace it (Human Element, I'm looking at you). The strike zone is interpreted, the definition of a check swing is not committed to paper but passed along though storytelling and parables to every new generation of umpires, balks are called based upon whims and antiquated notions, the neighborhood play exists, and the infield fly rule is filled with suppositions, assumptions, and, well, judgments. Yet for some reason, the ground rule double is a Bright Line.
The only way McCutchen, on first with two outs and going on contact, does not score on Pedro's double is if he gets lost and turns right at third base, yet the rule is that the ump can't make that assumption based upon his judgement. These are the same umpires who, when trying to determine whether a pitcher simply had a pitch get away from him or meant harm to a batter by aiming at his head, are called upon to divine intent, a.k.a. Read the Pitcher's Fucking Mind. But allowing them to award home to a fast runner on first running on contact would apparently give them too much discretion and power, and disrupt the current system where they have limited control over a game and are exceedingly meek and humble.
What a strange game.
Sending Locke to the DL is no longer necessary, as rosters will expand before his next scheduled start. There is absolutely no excuse for Locke taking the field again in 2013. He's done. Time to send him home to rest.
I'm not worried about the Cardinals because the Pirates weren't going to win the division anyway. More worrisome is that the Diamondbacks, currently hosting San Diego, are now 7.5 back. If the Pirates drop 2 of 3 to the Brewers--or, god help us, get swept by them--then chances are that by the time St. Louis leaves town the Diamondbacks are going to be only about 3-4 games behind and it will officially be time to panic.
A frustrating game all around with Hurdle's continuing maladroit handling of the bullpen. I think it's time to give Locke a rest, maybe a 15-day trip to the DL due to a tired arm. His top speed fastball seems to have dropped markedly over the last few games, and his energy and confidence are both at lows. Now, who to replace him with? Against the Cards, I'd give Johnson another go. After that, Gomez, or Johnson, or other September call-ups. Even though we're in a pennant race and need him, Locke's current performance is not what we need. One thing to keep in mind about this series: the Brewers may not be a great team right now, but they do know how to hit.
@DouggieB" they've gone from taking down top teams like the Reds and Cards, to not being able to beat the Brewers. "
Dude. Relax. They lost 1 game to the Brewers. ONE GAME
@justinzeth - Good point about the DL. I actually still think Locke can get back to some semblance of his first-half self if he gets a few weeks of rest. And some good coaching to respond to hitters' adjustments and his pitching philosophy. Despite the depressing loss, I think we can still win the division. It's certainly less likely than it was a few weeks ago, but I was encouraged by the improved hitting yesterday against a pitcher who has shut us down before, I think that the pickup of Byrd is a major coup, though it is offset by the continuing unavailability of Marte. Lambo and Pie both impressed me yesterday; I think Lambo may actually be adjusting to being in the bigs. My biggest concern going forward is first base. Would like us to pick up Morales (preferably) or Morneau there, but that pickup seems very unlikely. One other positive point: Tony Watson. He has turned into a real shutdown artist.
Actually I'm glad the Cardinals are trouncing the Reds, because it keeps hope alive that maybe, just maybe, PNC Park will get to host the coinflip game.
Marte can't even pick up a bat yet and there are rumors that it may be the dreaded hamate injury. Hopefully that's not true, but the Byrd pickup signals that Marte's season is probably over.