I understand letting Jeff Locke start today. That sounds crazy in hindsight, but I really do. Locke has looked marginally better since returning from his demotion, and he turned in a gem against the Cubs last weekend. Brandon Cumpton, Kris Johnson, and Stolmy Pimentel have all been used pretty sparingly since joining the Pirates after Indianapolis's season ended. Using a rusty, inexperienced rookie against a lineup like the Reds is a dangerous proposition.
Here's what I don't understand: this game was huge. A win for the Pirates would give them a two-game lead on the Reds with six games left. A win for the Pirates would keep them two back of the Cardinals heading into a week where the Cardinals will play the Nats and the Pirates will play the Cubs, which is not ideal but also potentially manageable. A win for the Pirates had an outside shot at clinching a playoff berth for them with six games left, because their magic number coming in was three and the Nationals are playing a double-header today. On top of it all, PNC Park was jammed full to the brim with almost 39,000 fans for the last home game of an incredible season. Cumpton and Pimentel and Johnson would've all been dangerous bets, but that doesn't mean that Jeff Locke was a safe bet. How is it possible that nobody was even up in the bullpen until the Reds were up 3-0? How did the Pirates get caught so flat-footed by Locke's bad start that they had no choice but to let him face Todd Frazier after Bruce's bases-clearing double? What's the point of having expanded rosters and such a huge bullpen if you can't respond to an emergency situation in a timely fashion in the biggest game of the year?
This will be Jeff Locke's last start of the season for the Pirates. It's been obvious for a while that he wouldn't make the playoff rotation as a starter, but the Pirates won't need a fifth starter at all again in 2013. Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, and Francisco Liriano will start against the Cubs this week. The Pirates have an off-day on Thursday, which will let them start AJ Burnett, Morton, and Cole on regular rest against the Reds in Cincinnati next weekend. We will likely see Francisco Liriano in the bullpen to stay sharp over the weekend, because he will have six days between his start against the Cubs on Wednesday and his start against the Reds in the wild card game the next Tuesday, October 1st.
The Pirates are still overwhelming favorites to play in the wild card game. The Nationals have already lost once today, and they're losing again right now (it's 3-2 Marlins at the end of five). If the Nats lose this game tonight, it will be their 73rd loss, which is the same number as the maximum number of games the Pirates can possible lose this year. That would mean, of course, that the Pirates' magic number for a wild card spot would be down to one.
The Pirates are going to play in the wild card game. The only thing worth focusing on now is making sure that game is back at PNC Park.
I'm not so certain that the PNC home venue for a one-game playoff makes that much of a difference. Actually, sometimes lately I'd rather see this club on the road where they "man up" as a team to get it done. This last homestand was not one that showed a great deal of confidence. I hate the idea of this one game wildcard playoff regardless of whether the Pirates are playing in it or not. It will be interesting to see how Hurdle and the Dustpan manage the weekend series in Cincy. If we can't finish in first and that's determined by Friday I'd hope we do everything possible to be ready for the one game wildcard on Tuesday rather than fight like dogs over the weekend only to be handicapped on Tuesday.
The Pirates have actually looked pretty mediocre over the last month. I think it's amazing that they could still make the playoffs the way they're limping to the finish. One game against the Reds next Monday and they're in. And then anything can happen. As far as where the game is, I'm not sure it matters. They lost 3 out of 4 against the Padres at home after all!
First, regardless of how things finish up, in my opinion the Pirates season has been a success. As someone who has been following the team since the early 60s -- Haddix, Clemente, Virdon, and Mazeroski baseball cards were some of my most prized possessions as a third grader -- I have been around for many of the team's highs and lows.
I believe that this roster has some great talent and there are some very good players coming along in the Pirates' minor league system. I also think the GM has done a great job and Hurdle is a pretty good manager and a tremendous motivator. In my opinion, it all adds up to the future looking extremely promising for the Pirates and their fans
While disappointing or disheartening, but not devastating, errors and blown saves occur and games are lost -- it's just a part of baseball. Unfortunately, they sometimes happen to the team you're rooting for and it can be especially tough when they're striving to make the playoffs they've missed for the past 20 years. However, I still have confidence in this team.
All that being said, I don't agree that starting Locke was a good choice. Even before the All Star break he was beginning to have problems -- I recall reading a few articles that described why his early season success was somewhat of a fluke.
I don't know if that's true, but I do know that every time I've seen his name in the lineup as the starting pitcher since the All Star break, my thought was that he would only last an inning or two and the Pirates would be trying to erase a deficit. Allowing him to try to pitch his way through whatever the problem may be is fine for the middle of the season, but not in the final seven games when the team is in a pennant race.
I didn't see any of the post game interviews, but would really like to know why Hurdle and Searage felt Locke was the right choice for this game. Yes, Cumpton and Johnson don't have "big" game experience, but Locke has to be lacking confidence at this point and he too, has never pitched in pennant race when every game counts. Just my two cents.
Bruce doubled on the first pitch he saw. If you started warming up a reliever after Phillips walked, he wouldn't have been ready to pitch to Frazier. If you started warming up a reliever after Votto walked, he probably wouldn't have been ready (8 pitches and one ball in play probably isn't enough time). So that means you're warming up a reliever after Heisey singled. In other words, after two batters hit ground balls, one of which was an out and the other of which was maybe six inches from being another out.
Plus, while you obviously can't assume the game plays out the same way, it's very possible that the only difference between putting in a RP and leaving Locke in is that the Pirates lose 9-3 instead of 11-3.
It just wasn't the Pirates' day.
For a while, my biggest fear has been not that the Pirates lose in the playoffs, but that we lose to the Reds in the playoffs because Hurdle is out-managed by Baker. Games like today do little to assuage this fear.
@whygavs hey pat. thoughts on lockes stability in the rotation next year? cumpton, stolmy, taillon all banging on the door
@whygavs big discussion on bucsdugout about starting locke. i tend to agree that they needed one last look at what they had.
@mwr505 Road record: 40-36, .526
Home record: 50-31, .617
The facts do not support your narrative.
@crazycacti101 Taillon won't be up until mid-season, obviously, but Stolmy is out of options.
@crazycacti101 Depends on AJ's return, but I'd assume that Locke will have to earn a spot.
@whygavs I think that because stolmy doesnt have options its possible that the #5 starter pos goes to him
@whygavs kid looked impressive yesterday
@crazycacti101 Yeah, especially given that they seem to think pretty highly of Stolmy.