Notes from this afternoon's press meeting with Pirates' Manager Clint Hurdle:
Assessing Morton's tough night
Hurdle pointed to a combination of bad luck and poor command to explain Charlie Morton's rough outing last night.
There have also been games where a lot of those ground balls are hit at people. It's a little bit of luck of the draw. We feel confident that with our defensive scheming we're going to be in the right position. A few of the shifts got busted last night. When his command across the board is good, that doesn't happen as much. He was not fine with his command last night. The command was inconsistent. ... There's some good things going on, we just need to put the whole package together. He's done it in a couple of outings.
The Pirates' starting pitching has been nothing short of excellent most of the season. With pitching this good, a pitcher posting average numbers can appear worse than he's actually been.
In nine starts this season, Charlie Morton's numbers are almost precisely in line with league average for starters.
Charlie Morton (MLB average): ERA 4.07 (4.03); K/9 7.03 (7.14); BB/9 2.22 (2.81); WHIP 1.36 (1.30); HR/9 0.92 (1.03). The big differences are batting average balls in play, .327 (.294) and HR/FB 17.2 percent (11.1 percent).
Hughes is back; Black back to Indianapolis
Jared Hughes is back on the 25-man roster and will be available for tonight's game. Vic Black was sent down to Indianapolis after absorbing the last eight outs in last night's blow out. Hurdle seemed to like what he saw from Black while he was with the team. "He doesn't have to go down and recook anything. He has a chance to be a guy that can wipe out an inning at the back of a game."
Hurdle also passed along an interesting interaction he had with Black before the ninth inning of last night's game.
I got to him and said, "Look, your maximum limit for pitches is 45, so you've got 13 pitches to work with this next inning." He goes, "OK." Then he comes in here today (chuckling) and says, "I think that really helped me! Because I knew I needed to get outs and get 'em quick. There have been points in time in my outings when I'm thinking, OK, what do I have to do? What do I have to throw? Just overcooking it."
Look for patient Pirates
Tonight the Pirates face Jhoulys Chacin, who has had a history of control issues (although he has displayed better control this year, with 2.6 BB/9). Moreover, the Rockies' pitching staff is a little beat up at the moment. They have used 18 pitchers in the last four games (33 innings pitched, 55 hits, 9.82 ERA). With these factors in play, Hurdle noted that the Pirates will look to be patient, work the pitch count, and put a premium on striking early.
These guys are in a precarious position, the series they had in Atlanta their starting pitching and bullpen took on a tremendous work load. So any damage we can do early, whether it be by pitch count or actual activity on the bases and runs is going to be to our benefit.
Verlander, Strasburg and Cole?
According to Hurdle, Gerrit Cole has at least one thing in common with Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg
He seems to have that other gear like a small number of pitchers have in the game now. Fastball velocity at 92, 94, 95, 93, 95, 98!, 99! I don't know how that happens. Verlander is the first guy that brought it to our attention a few years ago. Seen Strasburg do it, and maybe a few others.
Finally, it has been about a month since Jose Tabata has received more consistent starts in right field. Since July 3, he's batted .233/.325/.315 in 85 plate appearances.
Back on July 3 when Hurdle discussed the opportunity Tabata was going to receive, the Pirates' manager stressed that he not only needed to see production, but a good attitude. He wanted to see passion and energy.
Asked today to evaluate Tabata's month, Hurdle had this to say:
He has improved. He got off to a very consistent start and unfortunately got a little dinged up with a hit by pitch. Missed some reps, missed some games. Average has taken a little bit of a tumble now.
But as far as effort, the attitude, the man is engaged, he's ready on the bench. He's done all the things we want him to do, that we need him to do to be part of this team.