Notes and quotes from pregame:
-P- The Pirates have decided to push all of their chips toward the center of table and start Gerrit Cole in a game that could put them in position to play a division tiebreaker game on Monday. In order to play for the division title, the Pirates will need to defeat Johnny Cueto this afternoon, and then hope the Diamonbacks can defeat Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals this evening.
"At the end of the day, with every conversation I've had with a player, I've had with Neal [Huntington], that I've had with Bob [Nutting], that I've had with Frank [Coonelly] and that I've had with my coaching staff, there is no way we're going to walk away from the opportunity to win the division," Clint Hurdle said. "To walk away and pitch [Stolmy] Pimentel or [Casey] Sadler or [Jeanmar] Gomez after 161 games of grit and fight and battle, we're trying to make history here ... There is no guaranteed way to cut this thing up and do what you want to do. So, we're going to do what we believe in."
Hurdle also indicated that Jeff Locke would start a potential tiebreaker on Monday.
"If we win today, [Cardinals] lose, we'll go Locke, [Vance] Worley can back him up tomorrow," Hurdle said. "We'll figure out the Wild Card game. There is a very good chance Edinson [Volquez] will start the Wild Card game. We like our chances with him pitching."
However, when later directly asked about his pitching plans for Monday and Wednesday, assuming they are necessary, Hurdle said he was just "throwing around some names" earlier.
Hurdle said that "human analytics," or the so-called human element, far outweighed theoretical questions when it came to arriving at today's decision.
"We've been second-guessed all throughout this season about how we do things," Hurdle said. "This is not about theory. This is not about analytics. The only analytics that played into this decision was human analytics ... You play this long and you get [the opportunity to win the division] and to go theoretical is not in a lot of your players DNA."
The Pirates Leadership Council, which is made of five players, was asked for their input and showed "unequivocal" support for starting Cole and going for the division title. While their input was important, Hurdle said that the ultimate decision was his and he retained the right to veto.
Hurdle is clearly aware that the decision to pitch Cole in a game that may end up being meaningless, and thus making him unavailable for what remains the most likely scenario of playing an elimination Wild Card game on Wednesday, will draw a fair amount of criticism.
"That's the other beauty of the sport," Hurdle said. "When your business is other people's pleasure, other people get pleasure telling you how to do your business."