It Was A Bad Weekend For Clint Hurdle

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

This past weekend was not exactly the best of weekends for Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle

Entering this previous weekend the Pittsburgh Pirates were the hottest team in baseball. They had won 16 of their previous 21 games and had not lost a series in nearly a month (July 7 – 9 against the Philadelphia Phillies).

After welcoming their division rival St. Louis Cardinals to town over the weekend their momentum has been broken some. For the first time since early July the team has lost a series, and this came despite winning the series opener on Friday night. A big reason the team lost on Saturday and Sunday was the decisions of manager Clint Hurdle.

On Saturday night starting pitcher Ivan Nova simply did not have it. He allowed four runs in four innings pitched and was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom half of the 4th. To the Pirates’ credit, they battled back and had the game tied at four heading to the 5th inning. But this is where Hurdle’s mistakes began.

With the addition of Keone Kela, the Pirates have arguably the deepest and best bullpen in the National League. Instead of going to one of his big guns in a tied game in the 5th inning, Hurdle went with Alex McRae who was pitching in his second career game. Three batters into McRae’s outing, the Cardinals led 6-4.

After McRae walked the bases loaded in the top of the 6th inning his night should have been over. Especially since Pirate reliever Richard Rodriguez – who had thrown just five pitches the night before – leads the NL in inherited runner strand rate. Instead, McRae was left in and Kolten Wong delivered with a RBI single. He also let McRae hit instead of a pinch hitter with the team trailing 7-4 in the bottom of the 6th inning.

Hurdle going to McRae and leaving him in as long as he did played a major role in the Pirates’ 8-4 loss on Saturday night. While it would not be quite as egregious as Saturday night, Sunday afternoon proved to be a less than stellar day at the office for Hurdle as well.

Saturday night Hurdle did something that needs to become commonplace for the Pirates until Josh Bell returns from injury when he started Francisco Cervelli at first base and Elias Diaz at catcher. Cervelli and Diaz have been two of the team’s best hitters this season, and playing them this way is a great way to get both bats in the lineup and it gives the Bucs a big boost with Bell out.

Sunday afternoon Cervelli returned to catcher while Diaz did not start. Making matters worse, the red hot David Freese was given the day off due to a forearm contusion which led to Jose Osuna starting at first base. This was the first mistake as Osuna (.190/.203/.333/.536 slash line, 21.9% strikeout rate, 40 wRC+) should not be starting games for a team in the postseason hunt.

Hurdle’s second mistake came in the bottom of the 5th inning.

With the Pirates trailing 2-0 and doing almost nothing at the plate against Jack Flaherty, the Bucs found themselves with runners on the corners and one out. With Freese unavailable, Hurdle should have turned to Diaz. Instead, he went with the light hitting Jordan Luplow who bounced into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

An argument can be made for not using your backup catcher to pinch hit in the 5th inning, however, this was an important game for the Bucs as they pursue a Wild Card berth. Additionally, Diaz would enter the game as part of a double switch two innings later anyway. Hurdle could have, and should have, started this switch by having Diaz pinch hit in the 5th inning.

dark. Next. Good Weekends In The Minors

Bullpen management has always been a major issue for Clint Hurdle. Even when the Pirates made the postseason in 2013, 2014, and 2015 it was an issue, and it reared its ugly head again over the weekend. This combined with poor in-game decision on who to start and pinch hit with cost the Pirates’ their weekend series against the Cardinals, and made it a bad weekend for Hurdle.