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Pirates let Ernesto Frieri give up walk-off homer for some reason

Dilip Vishwanat

Look, I was as big a fan of the Ernesto Frieri trade as there was, and I still think that Frieri, as a 28-year-old with good stuff and a terrific strikeout rate, is an interesting pitcher. But Clint Hurdle's decision to turn to Frieri in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth today was beyond terrible, and the result was predictable -- the Cardinals won with a walk-off solo homer.

Frieri is an interesting pitcher, but he was coming off a disaster outing against the Diamondbacks, he wasn't exactly having a good year before that, and the Pirates are currently tinkering with his mechanics. I loved the trade, but you've got to react to new circumstances. Maybe in two weeks Frieri will be pitching well. For now, though, like Jason Grilli before the trade, Frieri should be the absolute last guy out of the bullpen, the guy who pitches when the Pirates are three runs behind or seven runs ahead. Using him in the ninth inning today was horrific. And, bafflingly, the Pirates had pretty much their entire bullpen fresh -- the bullpen only threw 14 pitches yesterday because of Charlie Morton's strong outing, and only 12 the day before that. Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez were all available when Clint Hurdle turned to Frieri. For today, at least, any of them would have been a better choice.

So yeah. Frieri got Jhonny Peralta to ground out. Then he struck out Oscar Taveras looking on a pitch well outside the zone. (It worked out, I guess, but allowing Frieri to face a dangerous left-handed batter with the game on the line was practically criminal.) At that point I loosened my grip on the steering wheel, thinking Frieri might escape without incident (in which case the first two paragraphs of this recap still would have been pretty much the same). Then, however, Frieri threw a stinkbomb of a 3-2 fastball for Kolten Wong (oh hey, another lefty, although a much weaker hitter) to blast to right field. Game over.

It's too bad, too, because Hurdle's decision negated home runs by Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen, three hits by Gregory Polanco, and some nice work by Jared Hughes and Tony Watson. Vance Worley wasn't as good as he's been the past month, allowing four runs in five innings, but the Pirates could have won this one. Oh well!