Three and a half games out of first place in the NL Central, and three out in the NL Wild Card race, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a prime spot for a second half postseason race. With injuries clearing up, a stacked offense, and a never-give-up spirit, the roster looks ready to compete. But is Clint Hurdle up for the task?
Clint Hurdle has had a fantastic season in so many different ways. With the Pittsburgh Pirates facing a record breaking amount of injuries, Hurdle managed to patch together a line up, starter, and bullpen arms everyday. Was it always pretty? No. But, most days the Pirates were able to do what they needed to do to stay within striking distance.
However, staying within striking distance is not the name of the game after the All-Star Break ends. With Jordan Lyles, Trevor Williams, and Corey Dickerson back on the roster, and Jameson Taillon, Keone Kela, Gregory Polanco, and Erik Gonzalez hopeful to return in the near future – the Pirates will need to transition from survival to domination.
I have to say, this transition has me worried.
While Hurdle is great in survival mode, Friday night’s loss against the Brewers reminded me about how much Hurdle struggles with managing games when it really matters most. During a 2-1 ball game in the top of the 8th inning, instead of sending Kyle Crick or Felipe Vazquez to the mound, Hurdle elected to have Dovydas Neveruskas pitch to the Brewers. This was a troubling decision for so many reasons.
- Dovydas has a Major League career ERA of 6.71 and a 2019 ERA of 10.61.
- To my knowledge, Dovydas has never pitched in a high-leverage situation at the Big League level. This situation was about as high-leverage as it gets.
- Kyle Crick (ERA 2.70) and The Nightmare (ERA 2.19) were not injured, both were either warming up or pitched later in the game.
- All-star and Brewer closer Josh Hader (ERA 2.09) was brought in to get the last out in the 7th inning. With Hader slated to pitch in the 8th as well, the Pirates needed to keep the game close. If they forced Hader to pitch in the 9th as well, Hadar would have almost certainly not been available for the rest of the series.
- With the All-Star break approaching, there is no reason to “rest” the bullpen or any individual player.
- Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown questioned the decision for about 10 straight minutes on live television. You know its bad when the broadcasters give a negative opinion about a home team decision.
- Before the game when Clint was asked about the team’s season Clint Hurdle said,
"“It’s all important. But you know what’s most important? Today’s game.”"
And later he said,
"“They’re going to give it everything they got tonight, and we’ll figure out what we did well and what we didn’t do well…We’ll reset the trap for tomorrow then we’re going to get a break then we’re going to get to go to Chicago. But we need to take care of what’s in front of us right now. Milwaukee’s in town, and they’re a good ball club.”"
Hurdle’s pre-game quotes suggests that he has the right mindset, but the execution has been a big swing and miss (sorry can’t help myself). While this poor decision making may be over-shadowed by the Pirates five run 9th inning, or Felipe Vazquez’s loss in the 10th, Hurdle needs to take his own advice. He needs to look at “…what we did well and what we didn’t do well…” and he needs to “…take care of what’s in front of [him]…” and win this afternoon’s game against the division rival Brewers to cap off a series victory.