When talking about this game, pretty much everyone is going to mention Wandy Rodriguez getting pulled too early seventh inning. After a season of sitting on his hands most of the times that his starters struggle, Clint Hurdle decided that TONIGHT was the night to get Wandy Rodriguez out of the game at the first sign of trouble, even though at the point he was pulled he'd only allowed just three hits in 6 2/3 innings and he'd had very little trouble with Dioner Navarro at any point during his first two plate appearances. You know what? Honestly, I didn't think it was an indefensible move. Navarro's got a bad platoon split as a left-handed hitter and Hughes has been flat-out excellent his last few times out. I thought Rodriguez had a few mroe outs in him, but honestly, what do you have a bullpen for if it's not to get big outs? There is an alternate timeline that's running parallel to this one in which Hurdle left Wandy on the mound and Wandy served up a two-run double to Navarro and everything else played out exactly the same, including all of the outrage at Hurdle over leaving Rodriguez on the mound. I dunno. I guess I get why people are upset, but that particular move didn't strike me as so hugely egregious.
If we want to sit around and pick out Clint Hurdle Decisions That Were Completely Befuddling from this debacle, I still can't figure out why Chase d'Arnaud ran for Garrett Jones in the 10th inning. Andrew McCutchen drew a leadoff walk against Aroldis Chapman to lead off the tenth. Jones followed up with a second straight walk, and was immediately replaced. Chase d'Arnaud doesn't really do anything well other than run; he's a poor defensive short-stop and he's a terrible hitter. He'd make a great pinch-runner, except that he wasn't even the lead runner. Slotting him into the lineup took Jordy Mercer's glove out of the game and gave the Pirates a d'Arnaud/Alvarez/Tabata 4-5-6. What does that accomplish, if it's not putting good speed on the bases to score the go-ahead run? As it turned out, d'Arnaud batted instead of Jones twice. Once was with the bases loaded and no outs in the 14th inning, after Alfredo Simon had just walked Eric Fryer. d'Arnaud swung at the first pitch and made an out, then couldn't make the play on the ball in the hole in the bottom of the 14th.
I could keep going, but it all feels academic at this point. With their season melting down around them, the Pirates somehow found themselves in the 14th inning of a game with Brock Holt, Jose Tabata, Eric Fryer, Chase d'Arnaud, and Rick van den Hurk on the field. Every single one of those guys was in Triple-A at some point in August for good reason. Gaby Sanchez and Starling Marte, in Triple-A in July, were out there, too. I know the club is dealing with injuries and I know that long games necessitate double switches, but how on earth can you finish a Major League Baseball game in a playoff race with Eric Fryer in right field while Garrett Jones was pointlessly swapped out for a pinch-runner four innings earlier? How can that be allowed to happen?
I remember being livid after the 19-inning loss to Atlanta last year, over umpiring, over poor managing, over everything. After this one, though? I don't really feel anything. If Eric Fryer and Chase d'Arnaud and Rick van den Hurk are the best the Pirates can do, what's the point in even getting upset? The Jolly Roger is down and the white flag is up. Same Old Pirates. So it goes.
Surprised there has been no mention of the Pedro vs. Chapman at-bat, which I think cost the Pirates the game. The situation screamed for a sacrifice. Pedro wasn't going to get a hit off Chapman. He needed to bunt there and he didn't. And if you tell me he can't bunt, then, it's September, put someone in who can. That was a game they had to win.
Tim Williams over at Pirates Prospects makes what I believe to be an excellent point; right now, we are looking at this ballclub solely through the lens of August 1st, and the sky is falling. You know what? At the end of May, this team was 25-25. If you fast-forwarded straight to September 11th from that date, how would you be feeling? Go back and look at the posts here at the end of March, see what you and other said then, and fast-forward to this date. Has your outlook changed?
Look, my glasses are only so rose colored. Having Rick Goddamn van den Hurk on the mound in the 14th inning of a must-win game is indefensible--and starting Kevin Correia in one is just as bad. I will say once more that this team reminds me of the '88 Bucs--a team that, like this one, was in first place in early August, but had too many holes to finish the job. That, in my view, is what this team is-- a team that was not a finished product, but had the core of a pennant winner. The team that we have been waiting for has Taillon and Cole at the top of the rotation, has Marte and Cutch together for a full season from day one. That team is not here yet, is not this team, and the sky is not falliing.
The ground ball in the hole that d'Arnaud couldn't field was no where near as bad as taking a force throw BEHIND THE BAG on a bang bang play at second.
Love your point of view with this blog, Pat. Just wanted to throw out a different take on the d'Arnaud pinch-running decision. I liked it. Hurdle wasn't playing for just one run, he was playing for a big inning. A double in the right spot might score two runs instead of just one "go-ahead" run, so why not play for two? When the game goes into extra innings, Hurdle typically plays to win "now." It's the 10th-inning ... why worry about what might happen in the 14th? I like that approach.
I want the !#$%ing streak to end. Let someone else own it. I don’t claim to be an expert on Hurdles’ in game decisions, but how were they not ready to play the Cubs? Anybody got Terry Francona’s number? He seems to be good at ending streaks involving futility.
Another great blog. I understand your comments about Wandy, but after throwing only 89 pitches, most of them very well, I thought he was still good to go. Leaving him one more batter was not a guarantee of success, but I think most reasonable people would have had a hard time criticizing that decision given how well Wandy had pitched and was still pitching. BTW, why is no one commending the Pirates at picking him up at such a cheap price?
I think it's too late to turn things around, and I'm now resigned to another losing season. With the way we've played over the last month+, it's no longer rational to talk about playoffs even though they're still theoretically possible. Not having Walker has hurt defense and offense, and not having a healthy Lunchbox has hurt offense. But although the Pirates are not stacked with even average players, they have enough talent to be competitive, much more than they have over the last month. I do think we again need a new hitting coach, and a new manager as well. Don't expect either of those things to happen though.
I pretty much feel the same way. I want to feel outraged or optimistic that this will be the Pirates rallying point but I'm just numb to the whole thing right about now. As I said in the game thread, I think this is the game that finally broke me.
At this point I can't help but root for the Pirates to complete the collapse and finish the season under .500, because I think that would get Hurdle fired, and Hurdle needs to go. I've tried to be optimistic, especially this year, but the truth is I've looked around the talent on their major league roster and in their minor league system, and I don't think they're going to get into or especially close to the playoffs during the McCutchen Era. They just don't have the talent. They don't even have very much impact talent at any level of the minors. Pirates fans--I include myself in this--are looking at their top 10-15 prospects and seeing them like we're at a disappointing bar or party and belting down drinks and squinting harder until the women look like knockouts.
So, painfully, I think the most likely outcome of this is that the Pirates continue to post win totals in the 70s the next few years, and then McCutchen finally requests and receives a trade around 2016, the front office gets turned over somewhere around then and we start over from 2007.
But I strongly believe this: if the Pirates ARE going to get into, or at least close to, the playoffs, they're not going to do it with Clint Hurdle (mis)managing them. He is death by a thousand management-mistake paper cuts.
@wkkortas It would really help if they didn't lose 5 of 6 to the Brewers (losing record), lose 5 of 6 to the Padres (losing record), and get sweept by the Cubs (second worst record in baseball). Keeping the errors under seven a game would be cool too.
Follow-up: Of course I'm not sure getting Hurdle fired would accomplish much, since one of the well-established weaknesses of the current Pirates front office is their amazing ability to consistently hire horrendously awful managers.