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Ryan Ludwick's Walk-Off Hit Carries Pirates

Ryan Ludwick's walk-off single in the ninth carried the Pirates to a 4-3 win over the Reds in the Bucs' last homestand of the season. The win was their 70th of the year.

The Pirates got out to a 3-0 lead early, with an incredible two-run homer by Garrett Jones over the center field bleachers and an RBI single by Ryan Doumit. The Reds got runs in the fifth and sixth, though, and then one more in the ninth as Joel Hanrahan hit Todd Frazier with the bases loaded.

In the bottom of the inning, Jason Jaramillo doubled with one out. Chase D'Arnaud pinch-ran, and Ludwick pinch-hit for Pedro Alvarez (sadly). Ludwick knocked a ball over the head of Drew Stubbs in center to win the Pirates the game.

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This is kind of off topic a bit, but since Hanrahan figured in the game tonight, I'll mention it. I was thinking about this on the way home tonight: What if the Pirates had traded Hanrahan at the deadline? We discussed the possibility at the time, and we looked at some of the prices veterans like Mike Adams were fetching in the trade market and wondered if Hanrahan might have brought back a top prospect.

As it turned out, the Pirates folded down the stretch, and didn't really need Hanrahan. It's easy to look back now and say that the Bucs should have traded him. But they were doing what they had to do at the time.

Unfortunately, the Pirates found themselves in a situation where the fans' opinions really mattered. Let's say the Bucs had dealt Hanrahan, then went on the two-month slide they've gone on since late July. Then, instead of blaming Jerry Meals or Clint Hurdle or whoever they're blaming for the Pirates' poor play right now, fans would have blamed Neal Huntington for trading Hanrahan and waving the white flag. I shudder to think what this coming offseason might have looked like if the Pirates had done that. Huntington would have been accused of taking the Pirates' one chance at contention and blowing it on yet another prospect.

Now, obviously, Huntington doesn't really care what the fans think. But if he had made that deal, it would have been nearly impossible to convince most of them that he was serious about winning. The ensuing storm of bad PR would have been incredibly intense, probably the worst in modern Pirates history. Huntington, to his credit, doesn't generally care about bad PR, but this particular storm of bad PR would have been biblical.

You can't be a good major-league GM if you're constantly fretting about worst-case scenarios. But there is an excellent chance that a deadline Hanrahan trade that would have had terrifying results. For example: what if the Pirates had traded Hanrahan, then missed a playoff spot by two or three games, particularly with someone like Jose Veras blowing saves down the stretch?

It's too bad the Pirates have collapsed as they have, and the Bucs may have missed an opportunity to deal their closer in a great market. But I don't think they really had a choice. The potential uproar over what would have been an incredibly controversial move could have had a huge effect on fan morale and ticket sales, and it certainly would have squandered the modest amount of goodwill the Pirates had built up after a few months of winning. A couple years ago, the Pirates had no choice but to alienate the fans. That was the only path toward making the franchise better. This year, things were more complicated. It would have been nice to get a top prospect for Hanrahan, but I can't fault the Pirates for not doing so.