It was the bottom of the eighth inning.
Xavier Paul drew a four pitch walk to lead off the inning, bringing up Andrew McCutchen who represented the go ahead run. McCutchen digs in, awaits the first pitch of the at bat, then.......attempts to sacrifice Paul over to second.
Surely it had to be a missed sign. Why would Pirates manager Clint Hurdle use his best offensive player to give up an out just to move a runner over? McCutchen would no doubt be swinging away from this point on.
In a bizarre move, Hurdle decided it was in the Pirates best interest to let their best offensive player give up his at bat for a sacrifice bunt.
The Pirates have improved, but they still can't be compared to the 1979 World Series championship team. The Pirates best chance to tie or win the game may have very well rested on the shoulders of their best player, McCutchen. Clint Hurdle obviously felt the better bet was to give up McCutchen's at bat and hope a one or two out single would tie the game.
The strategy failed. After a ground out that moved Paul to third, Garrett Jones was left to face a left-hander. Jones is batting a dismal .130 against left-handed pitching this year. Hurdle's gamble failed miserably as Jones struck out looking. The Pirates went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the next inning.
Final score: Astros 3 Pirates 2.
If Pirates fans are to believe this talented group of players are for real, you can not be using their best player in a sacrifice bunt role. If you are promoting Andrew McCutchen as your best player, you MUST give him the chance to win the game or at least let him have a say in the outcome.
When McCutchen put down the bunt, in essence, Hurdle short changed the fans and his team as well. The Pirates need to let players who they have anointed as the future, prove that they deserve that label. A sacrifice bunt doesn't cut it.
All in all, Hurdle has done a great job. The Pirates have been an entertaining watch thus far under the manager's guidance. It just leaves you with a bad feeling, especially after the team was just six outs away from .500. The good news....it's only May.
Hopefully Hurdle won't make the same decision if and when the same situation occurs.