There is no excuse for the poor baserunning decisions the Pirates made in their 3-0 loss to the Brewers on Monday night. The best-case scenario is that Elias Diaz and Gregory Polanco simply didn’t care about a late-September game. Then at least there’s hope they’d choose more wisely in a meaningful situation. Then there’s less of the creeping feeling this organization can’t corral its players on the basepaths.
But there’s no reason for a baseball player to not know the basic idea of the cost/benefit of advancing a base when down multiple runs, and if that’s the case, it’s very troubling.
Diaz, who should probably also be reminded he’s not very fast, smacked a liner down the right-field line in the seventh inning. He looked dead set on getting a double, even though right fielder Hernan Perez would have had a play on the slow catcher had Perez cut the ball off on his first attempt. Instead, the ball got by Perez, rolling back to the wall. Crisis momentarily averted.
Then, however, Diaz inexplicably rounded second and headed for third. Perez bumbled over to the ball and leisurely tossed it to the cutoff man, who had plenty of time to get Diaz out by a few feet over at third.
It was a poor decision in a vacuum. With the bases empty, trailing 2-0, it was negligent of a player’s (or coach’s) responsibility.
What’s more, Diaz made a similarly awful play exactly a month ago. A responsible team would have had Diaz and/or third-base coach Joey Cora set straight quickly. The Pirates apparently are not that responsible team.
For good measure, Polanco, with none on and two outs in a 3-0 game in the ninth, tried to stretch a single to left-center, because YOLO. This play was a little closer, but no less foolish. The Pirates challenged the out call just because. It was upheld. Game over.
Again, the best-case scenario here is Diaz and Polanco just let their guards down in a meaningless game. That’s actually kind of understandable. What’s concerning is the possibility this stuff is allowed to fester on a team. That Diaz, having squashed a rally a month ago, either didn’t learn a thing on his own or was not approached about his reckless play. That runners might not understand that you need to protect outs, not risk them, trailing in a game.
If Cora or baserunning coach Kimera Bartee don’t quickly correct errors like this, Clint Hurdle should see that it gets done. If the manager fails in this regard, higher-ups in baseball operations should be concerned enough to make sure players know what the hell they’re doing out there.
In fairness, I’m not in the clubhouse. I don’t know whether this was something the team attempted to work on previously. But Diaz twice making the same mistake, one that should set off 700 sirens in a coach’s head, doesn’t speak well to the Pirates’ process.
A couple other things happened, too. Jameson Taillon pitched well, but gave up a home run to Ryan Braun in the fourth, then another run on his way out in the sixth. Brent Suter pitched like a taller version of Good Jeff Locke, not issuing a walk in five innings. The Pirates didn’t get a runner (safely) past second base, unable to capitalize on eight hits. Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 with three singles.
The Pirates have lost six in a row and 11 of their last 12.