The Pittsburgh Pirates had a very painful loss at the hands of the San Diego Padres Tuesday night. It was a loss that could have been averted, if not for some questionable decisions by Pirates manager, Clint Hurdle.
Tuesday night's match up with the Padres was a game the Pirates needed. They sent their ace A.J. Burnett to the mound, hoping to see him notch win No. 16 of the season, instead they saw a no-decision and a number of head scratching decisions by their manager.
Let's get straight to the odd managerial moves. With the Pirates down 4-3 in the bottom of the eigth inning, Hurdle called on Chad Qualls. Keeping the game 4-3 was extremely important, especially so with the Padres star closer, Huston Street, on the DL.
It was very surprising that Jason Grilli was not the pitcher of choice for Hurdle. Well, if you really try to dig deep for a reason, you can say Hurdle may want to get Qualls in because he was coming off four days of rest due to being on the bereavement list. He was one of the few fresh arms left in the pen. If you really tried, you could maybe understand that. Maybe.
San Diego started the inning with a lead-off double. Qualls got a ground ball, and the runner moved to third with one out. Qualls not being known as a strikeout pitcher, Hurdle would bring in Grilli to try and get that strikeout with less than two outs, right? Wrong!
Qualls remained in the game and is greeted with a sacrifice fly immediately. The game goes from a manageable one-run deficit, to a 5-3 contest headed to the top of the ninth.
Fast forward. Two outs, one on in the top of the ninth. Garrett Jones at the plate and Neil Walker on first base. Bam! Jones hits a two-run shot to dead center and ties the game at five. Hurdle and the Pirates have climbed back and it's a new ballgame.
There is now a Grilli sighting. He starts the bottom of the ninth and, after a few anxious moments, Grilli and the Pirates get out of the ninth and we are headed to extra innings.
The Pirates can't punch any runs in during the top of the inning. On to the bottom of the inning. This game is too important to Hurdle's club to see anybody other than Joel Hanrahan take the mound this inning, right? Wrong! It's Daniel McCutchen. What? Yes, the guy just recalled from Indianapolis.
First off, to put McCutchen in a situation in a game of this magnitude is not only added pressure on him, but just downright wrong.
We press on. McCutchen walks the lead-off man. Pittsburgh steals base (which is almost a given against the Pirates this season). The count on Chase Headley goes to 3-0 before McCutchen comes back to make it 3-2. Next pitch, game over. Headley hit a two-run bomb to right field to end the game and give the Padres a 7-5 win.
What was going through Hurdle's mind is anybody's guess. When you are in extra innings on the road and your team is clinging to the last wild card spot, you decide to bring in somebody who the organization thought was best off in Triple A most of the season.
Your best reliever is in the pen. Why? Hoping you take a lead and put Hanrahan out there for the save? I got news for Hurdle, there is no guarantee the game will go past the next inning. As it turned out, it didn't.
Whether it's Hurdle not wanting to bring his closer into a tie game or that he didn't want to upset Hanrahan by not giving him the chance at a save, there is no excuse. In the words of Herm Edwards, "You play to win the game." I guess Hurdle played to win the game. He was just hoping he would possibly have a chance to win it later.
For Hurdle and the Pirates, we can only hope they put this game behind them and move forward. Who knows? Maybe Clint will learn from his mistakes during this game.