I suppose it’s poor form to complain after the Pirates break a five-game losing streak by scoring some runs off of one of the better rookies in the National League, but this game was 7-3 before I had a chance to put it on the radio and 7-4 before I had a chance to get it on the computer, so the end of it is pretty much my only frame of reference for the game.
When the Pirates refused to name a closer after trading Octavio Dotel, I was excited. I, like a lot of people, think the whole convention of “closing” is stupid. You shouldn’t set your bullpen up around getting to your best reliever, leaving inferior pitchers with chances to blow the game before you can even get your best reliever on the mound. It’s stupid. You shouldn’t leave your closer out there when he gets into trouble just because he’s you’re closer. It’s stupid. You shouldn’t be afraid to bring a closer into a close game in the eighth inning because he has to pitch in the ninth. It’s stupid.
So when I heard Hanrahan and Meek would share time closing games, I was pretty excited. They’re not exactly a righty-lefty combo duo or anything, but they each have their relative strengths and should be able to play off of each other when necessary to close games out. And then John Russell leaves Evan Meek on the mound for a second inning in which he went well over 30 pitches on the night, clearly ran out of gas, and very nearly blew the the Pirates’ three-run lead before barely holding it down while Joel Hanrahan sat in the bullpen without even warming up so that he could “close” the game out in the ninth. And it worked tonight, but barely. Why is it so hard for teams to be imaginative with their bullpens?
But I don’t mean to take away from an otherwise good win. Neil Walker’s bat is heating up again, Jose Tabata had two hits tonight, and Paul Maholm put in a pretty solid start to snap the ugly losing streak. Of course, Andrew McCutchen did get hit in the head with Mike Leake fastball (can this sort of this PLEASE STOP HAPPENING?), but he’s apparently going to be OK. A serious Andrew McCutchen injury would be worse than the Pirates losing every single last one of their games this season, so that means that the news he’s OK is actually the best news on the night.