Notes and quotes from today's pregame:
Cole may have learned an important lesson
Gerrit Cole did not pitch any rehabilitation games following his first stint on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. In his first start after returning from the DL, he got torched for five runs in four innings. He went back on the disabled list only 10 days later.
The Pirates took a different approach the second time around with Cole and, according to Hurdle, the pitcher bought-in and it's paid off.
"All that work he put in with the four starts in rehab was purposeful and was planned and he followed it and he was steadfast with it," Hurdle said. "[It put] him in this position to pitch with freedom and with four pitches."
Since returning, Cole has collected 15 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched and posted a 1.77 ERA
Hurdle thinks that Cole may have learned something important by accepting a more deliberate approach following his second injury.
"I think a lesson was learned the first time he had an injury," Hurdle said. "I think he realized ... you might feel the way you feel, but to be able to pitch the way you need to pitch are two different things. Having the want to pitch and having the ability to pitch and the freedom to pitch are things you need to pay attention to. I do think there was some urgency the first time he went down to get back."
No update on Alvarez
Hurdle had not spoken with Pedro Alvarez yet when he met with the press this morning. The Pirates corner infielder was not in today's starting lineup.
Hurdle commends Davis; Davis hits game-winning home run
Before Tuesday night's game, Clint Hurdle called Ike Davis into his office to commend him for how he has handled the team's decision to move Pedro Alvarez over first base.
"Ike's been a pro all the last week, all through it," Hurdle said. "Just working, helping doing whatever he can. We had another talk today and I told him how proud I was of him, just the way he's gone about his business, preparing, staying focused, getting his swings, getting his work. All of it."
In the eighth inning, Davis hit earned more words of appreciation from his manager when he hit a monster three run home that propelled the Pirates to a 5-2 victory.
"[He] put a beautiful swing on that pitch tonight, just squared it up and right when we needed a beautiful swing with runners on base."
For his part, Davis said that dealing with the change at first base has been "fine."
"You kind of get immune to stuff after a while," Davis said. "It's kind of been my career -- starting, not starting -- so I'm used to it."
More fluid bullpen usage?
Last night Hurdle called on Tony Watson in the seventh inning and had him pitch two innings. Both were outside of Watson's typical role as the "eighth inning setup guy." Today, Hurdle was asked if his use of Watson might indicate a more liberal approach to bullpen roles the rest of the season. His response was short, and did not reveal a changed philosophy:
"It was for last night's game. He was well rested."
Hit and running
The Pirates executed a picture perfect hit and run in the fourth inning of last night's game. With Neil Walker running, Russell Martin grounded a 3-2 pitch right through the hole vacated by Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong.
It is a play that we've seen the Pirates employ more often lately, with varying degrees of success. Indeed, the Monday night the play resulted in a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out.
"Yeah, we have been running it a lot recently," Hurdle said. "We've got some guys on our team that it's a strength, they have the ability to do it. And I think we have usable speed that just makes it a good weapon. You don't have to do it when you ahead, you can do it when you're down a run or two."
Hurdle said that he likes the play mainly for its tactical value, but he added that he appreciates its aesthetics, as well.
"The beautiful thing is when the pitch is out over the plate and you can hit the ball to right field," Hurdle said. "It's one of the prettiest things that happens in baseball."
Mike Fast wrote a fascinating article on the utility of the hit and run play that is a must read if you are interested delving into the numbers. Here are his key findings:
The hit-and-run is far from the worst play in baseball. For a small-ball tactic, it has been quite successful over the past nine seasons, increasing scoring by .06 runs per attempt on average. The value of the hole in the infield defense is real, adding about 27 points to the batting average of the hitter. The double plays avoided by executing the hit-and-run offset the runners caught stealing on the play, and the extra bases gained by the runner when the ball is put in play are enough to move the play into the plus column overall.
However, there are some situations where the hit-and-run attempt made less sense and was a barely positive or even a net negative play-with the fourth and fifth hitters in the lineup up, with one out, or in the popular ball-strike count of 2-1.