A Colossal Muck-up
With very little margin of error left in their season, the Pirates committed a series of mind-numbingly silly mistakes on their way to a brutal 4-3 loss. The miscues were as inexplicable as they were frustrating, especially for Pirates fans who were considering glancing at scoreboards and standings after two straight wins.
By the tone of his postgame comments, Clint Hurdle was as annoyed by tonight's sloppiness as anyone watching from the outside.
The ugliness of this FUBAR Friday starts with Gregory Polanco. After a lead-off double in the second, he strayed too far off second and was picked off.
"Polanco probably got picked by the best second baseman in the league, as far as pickoffs go," Hurdle said. "We talked to him. If you're going to steal third base, you'd like to get there with one out, not with two strikes and one out. It's a little late right there. You're not giving the hitter a whole lot of chance to do something."
For his part, Polanco said he slipped trying to return to the bag.
In the sixth, Jung-ho Kang followed Polanco's lead by getting picked off first. It is the 17th time a Pirates baserunner has been picked-off this season, which ranks third in baseball.
"He went early enough and made a fake break that it brought attention to himself," Hurdle said. "If we see it they see it. That didn't help our cause."
Hurdle said that the players are more than aware of the high number of pickoffs this season. He thinks the problem is tied to trying to be create runs when the opportunities are not actually there.
"I appreciate the want-to," Hurdle said. "We've got to improve the will-to and the when-to."
In the sixth, one of the most dynamic offensive players on the team, Josh Bell, was removed from the game as part of a double shift that placed Matt Joyce in right field.
Hurdle explained that the switch would give Joyce another at-bat while improving the defense.
Then, and this one is truly baffling, Jordy Mercer was asked to bunt after Francisco Cervelli led-off the seventh with a walk and the Pirates trailing 3-2. Bunting in that situation may be defendable, but what is truly hard to understand is why he was still bunting with two strikes. But he was, and he struck out, and the Pirates went quietly in the inning.
"[Mercer] chose to try to put a bunt down," Hurdle said. "We've had these conversations and I've never put a two-strike bunt on for a position player. They all can hit with two strikes. ... He just said he felt compelled to get the man to second base."
Finally, in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, one out and down a run, Josh Harrison swung at the first pitch from Raisel Iglesias and promptly popped up to shallow left. It was an odd decision to swing at the first offering, as Iglesias was struggling and had already hit two batters in the inning.
"You know, it doesn't really matter right now," Hurdle said, when asked if approved of Harrison's aggressiveness. "He fired at the first pitch and we were't able to drive the run in."
Watson yields winning run
The Pirates overcame their self-inflicted wounds to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth. It was the third time they'd come from behind on the night. But then Tony Watson got dinged for two hits and a run in the top of the ninth. He was not hit hard and it wasn't a matter of pitch location, Hurdle said.
"Those things happen when you're battling," Hurdle said. "I thought everything look fresher tonight, as he did last time out."