CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 12: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates walks back to the dugout after striking out against the Cincinnati Reds during the game at Great American Ball Park on September 12, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Another terrible decision by Clint Hurdle led to yet another Pirates loss tonight.
The Reds got one against an otherwise-excellent A.J. Burnett in the third as Ryan Hanigan and Brandon Phillips singled, and Wilson Valdez knocked home Hanigan with a groundout. (Burnett had eight whiffs in six innings.) The Pirates tied it in the fourth when Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones led off with singles, and Gaby Sanchez brought McCutchen home with a single of his own. (There were still two on and no outs at that point, but the Pirates failed to score any more.)
In the top of the sixth, Alex Presley hit a one-out triple on a grounder to right, showing superb speed as he came around second. And that's when Hurdle struck. Nick Leyva visibly whispered something to Presley, and Presley came charging home on a squeeze attempt with Clint Barmes at the plate -- with one out, a runner on third and a tie game. Unfortunately, Hurdle got owned by the Reds, who apparently figured out what he and Leyva were up to and decided to pitch out. Barmes, understandably, couldn't get his bat on the ball, and Hanigan tagged Presley out at the plate. Boom -- go-ahead run gone. It was probably the worst play I've seen this season, and there have been a lot of bad ones.
In the bottom of the inning, Ryan Ludwick doubled, moved to third on a fly ball, and came home on a sacrifice fly. (A sacrifice fly! With a runner on third! There's a novel concept.) At that point, I tuned out, and I'm guessing most other Pirates fans did too. (Well, I tuned back in to watch Jared Hughes pitch to Phillips, but that was it.) I'm amazed, really, that Clint Hurdle found another way to inject himself into this losing streak, which had already featured plenty of sub-Jim-Tracy-grade managing. At some point, you'd think Hurdle would figure out he's not helping, and order someone to tie him to the mast.
Incidentally, the Pirates are now 72-70, so they need to play .500 ball from here on out to have a winning season.