A 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. I can normally deal with that. Stephen Strasburg pitched for the Nats. They are supposed to be one of the best teams in the NL. The bullpen was horribly mismanaged in the loss but that is to be expected. Clint Hurdle has done this before. Even then, I could deal with it. But then the Double Bubble chewing phenom decided to speak after the game and explain his logic for his bullpen train wreck. And now I want to vomit.
The bullpen had to pitch four innings today. Jeff Locke was pulled relatively early which I feel might have been Hurdle’s first mistake. Then there was no rhyme or reason to his decision making afterwards. He pulled Locke for Justin Wilson. A lefty for a lefty when Locke had only thrown 74 pitches. But even that somewhat worked. Then Wilson went out for a second inning of work and had major control issues. He was replaced by Bryan Morris with two outs and the bases loaded which is probably the only decision of the game that I liked.
Here is where stuff gets crazy. Tony Watson comes out to pitch the eighth. Ok. Whatever. I can deal with that. I don’t love it but it is what it is. And Watson did his job in the eighth. The issue was him coming out to pitch a second inning. Tie game. Ninth inning. And you’re two best relievers have not been used. You deserve to lose. BUT….wait til you hear what’s next.
After the game, Hurdle gets asked why neither Jason Grilli or Mark Melancon was used. In regards to Melancon, he said that Melancon will ONLY pitch in the eighth inning of games that the Pirates are winning. Are you kidding me? I was fine with the Joel Hanrahan trade for the get go. And I’ve been proved right. But how in the world can you justify limiting a guy that you think highly enough of to trade a proven closer for? It’s illogical. If you’re going to pick and choose when to pitch Melancon, wouldn’t it be more important to use him late in a tied game than late in a game that you’re winning by three runs?
Grilli. Let’s talk about Grilli. One time…when we were kids, my mom made my brother and I grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. My brother was a picky eater as a kid and decided he didn’t want it. So my mom slapped him with it. That’s basically what Hurdle did to himself today. He decided he didn’t want to use his best pitcher in a high leverage situation. And he got slapped in the face.
But what was the reason? There HAS to be a reason for not using the best reliever statistically in the National League right now. Oh…there’s a reason alright. His “age and usage” was the determining factor. What the hell? Seriously? If you are concerned about the age and usage of your 36 year old closer…then don’t have a 36 year old closer.
The bullpen has been self-proclaimed as “the shark tank.” Today, I think LL Cool J found his way into the tank.
This bullpen really isn’t that great. Grilli and Melancon are fantastic. Outside of that, it is a bunch of guys that are fringe major leaguers along with Jose Contreras who is so old that he can’t go through the whole day without take a nap.
This team can not afford to not use their best pitchers in late game situation. What Hurdle told his team and the fans of the Pirates today is that games where the Pirates are winning by three runs is a higher leverage situation than a tie game. This is why I hate that saves are a stat. Managers are terrified to use their best relievers unless it’s a save situation. Setup guy. Closer. Game. Can’t deviate from the norm. And no one sticks to that logic better than Hurdle.