Game 120: Cardinals 6 Pirates 5

I don't think there's really a whole lot to say about this game. AJ Burnett hit the wall really early and blew a 4-0 lead, then Clint Hurdle did some silly things. The Pirates' bullpen pitched really well and kept them in the game, but the offense had trouble with the Cardinals' bullpen again, and so the Pirates lost. 

I'm not actually hugely concerned with Burnett long-term, but I do want to point out that maybe it's not smart to give Burnett a longer leash than guys like Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole have. Burnett is not the youngest guy in the world anymore, and it seems to me that when he strings together a few high-pitch outings, the result is that he makes a couple of starts that look like his last two. Obviously if this keeps happening it'll be a concern, but I'm willing to bet that he recalibrates himself some after these two short outings and he'll probably look better the next couple of times he takes the mound. 

As I said during the game, watching Burnett fall apart with a big lead in the fifth inning was frustrating, but watching Starling Marte bunt with a runner on second and no outs in the seventh inning drove me absolutely mad. Josh Harrison started the seventh with a leadoff double, which should've brought Marte, Walker, and McCutchen up with a chance to drive him in. Marte bunted Harrison to third, then Nick Leyva sent Harrison on contact when Walker hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Harrison was thrown out at home, and Walker slid up to second. Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked, and a LOOGY was brought in to face Pedro Alvarez, which ended predictably. Basically, the Pirates got a leadoff double from the nine spot in their lineup and when Clint Hurdle elected to bunt with Marte, the end result was that he took the bat out of three of the first four hitters in his lineup and only really gave Walker a chance to bring the run home. I can't handle stuff like that. 

The problem runs a little bit deeper than the bunt, though; there is no way that Andrew McCutchen can ever see a pitch to hit with someone on base late in the game and Pedro Alvarez on deck, so long as the opposing team has a left-handed reliever available. Clint Hurdle goes matchup crazy with Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez, and he used both Sanchez and Jose Tabata to pinch hit in the sixth inning today against lefty Sam Freeman, but Alvarez is always left up at the plate to wilt with lefties on the mound and runners on base. There is no good solution to this problem (the Pirates could, I suppose, bat Jones in front of Alvarez, which would then ensure that when Gaby Sanchez pinch hits for Jones with a lefty on the mound that either Sanchez faces a lefty, Alvarez faces a righty, or the opposing team runs through a whole bunch of their bullpen all at once, but moving Garrett Jones up in the lineup is not the sort of decision that smart baseball teams make), but it's really frustrating watching McCutchen and Alvarez constantly be neutralized by intentional walks and LOOGYs late in close games. 

There were plenty of other things that happened in this game (Andrew Lambo got his first career hit, with an RBI double that short-hopped the fence, for one), but this series has exhausted me. 

Pat Lackey

About Pat Lackey

In 2005, I started a WHYGAVS instead of working on organic chemistry homework. Many years later, I've written about baseball and the Pirates for a number of sites all across the internet, but WHYGAVS is still my home. I still haven't finished that O-Chem homework, though.