Notes from this afternoon's press scrum:
-P- Starling Marte is not in tonight’s lineup. Jose Tabata will bat first and play right field; newly-recalled Alex Presley will start in left. Clint Hurdle said that the day off for Starling Marte was planned and not tied to any other issues: “He’s gone out and taken the games. We were talking about a day and after the run of games, I think it’s just a good opportunity to get him to back away from one.”
-P- The Pirates have still not named a starter for the second game of the doubleheader tomorrow
-P- Before the biggest series ever played in Pirates’ history (!!), Hurdle said he understood why there was so such much excitement in the city and was “all for it.”
“There’s a lot of reason to have some excitement in the air and to look forward to the matchup,” Hurdle said, but added, “we’re best served going at it one game at a time. … maintain our process.”
-P- One of the interesting story lines in this series is the performance of the two clubs with runners in scoring position (RISP). The Cardinals not only have the highest batting average in Major League Baseball with RISP, .338, but at their current pace they would set a new MLB record. On the other hand, Pirates’ pitchers are allowing a MLB-low .221 batting average with RISP. (Pirates hitters are batting a MLB worst .222.)
Hurdle said that Cardinals offensive RISP numbers “will grab you."
“That’s just a high number. They have a lot of high numbers. It’s about time some of them fell. We’ll have the opportunity. … their displaying a level of consistency that has not been seen in a long time.”
On the topic of situational hitting, Hurdle was asked what he thought about “sabermetric people” who say there is no such thing as a clutch hitter, Hurdle responded:
I’m wired a different way. If you’ve ever had a bat in your hand and stood in the box with a runner on second and a closer on the mound, I think you might argue the point. If you’re up in the booth looking at numbers and graphs and color codes it might be different. I don’t know.
I just know from an athletic standpoint that there’s times in this game where, whether you like it not, you might feel a little more pressure, a little more excitement, then you would at other points.
One of things we try to strive for here is that we get to that point where we’re meeting the demands of the game.
On whether he ever considers clutch numbers when making in-game decisions, Hurdle said it ”depends what definition you put on it. How you draw it up. We have obviously identified high leverage and low leverage. Could be part of where the game is going.”
-P- St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said that he gives "boring" answers to questions about the importance of any given series or game: "It's going to be boring, but it's going to be consistent. It's going to be consistently about we have a game today ... we can only control this game right now. I think the players are buying into it. It helps keeping the focus where it needs to be."
-P- Asked about his team's success hitting with runners in scoring position and the Pirates' pitchers success in preventing hits, Matheny said that he thinks it is the product of "talent" and taking the same "consistent approach" regardless of the situation or the score. He said it boils down to a player knowing "who he is, what his strong suits are" and who he is facing.
-P- Jason Grilli said that on the night he got injured he was not "feeling 100 percent, but I gave 100 percent." He added that you have to learn how to "play hurt in this game," especially at this time of year when "a lot guys aren't 100 percent." Finally, the Pirates closer sounded confident that he would be back before the end of the season: "I'm going to be ready before the season is out. You can mark my words on that."