WASHINGTON — If the Pirates had been tied with the Nats in the bottom of the seventh inning last night, Juan Cruz would have been on the mound. But with his team down a run, manager Clint Hurdle opted to use Evan Meek, who had just been recalled from Triple-A Indy. Meek yielded three runs.
“If you look for good, you find good. If you look for bad, you find bad,” Hurdle said. “Evan was brought here to pitch. He’s put his time in. He’s worked hard. For me, it was why not get Evan in the game, one run down? I didn’t want to use (Jason) Grilli or Cruz (in that situation). I have a plan in place, where the only time I’ll use them down a run is in the bottom of the eighth if we’re on the road or top of the ninth if we’re at home. Evan came out fresh. He got an out, then he cut up (Ian) Desmond nice, you see the velocity spike to 95-96 mph. Then it got away from him a little bit.”
Meek walked Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, loading the bases with two outs. Adam LaRoche lined the first pitch into right field for a three-run double. And there, as they say, was your ballgame. “I wanted to give (Meek) a chance to get out of it,” Hurdle said. “He makes a pitch to LaRoche, he’s out of the inning and it turns a sideways into a positive. He deserved that opportunity, in my eyes, so I gave it to him.”
Meek could be sent back to Indy after tonight’s game. The Pirates might add a position player because they’ll to use a designated hitter in the three-game set in Detroit. However, Hurdle said he could keep things as is with the eight-man bullpen and have a three-man bench because there is less need for pinch-hitters and/or two-player switches in AL games. Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington will decide what course to take before batting practice tonight, but will likely keep their decision quiet until after the game.
»»» A look back: This is where it all began for Jose Tabata. The OF made his debut at Nationals Park on June 9, 2010. Tabata has hit safely in 10 of 12 games (home and away) against the Nats, going 16 for 48 (.333) with eight runs scored. Trivia question: What other current Pirate made his ML debut the same night as Tabata?
»»» Whiffffff: Since April 25, RHP James McDonald has struck out 33 batters in four starts. The only pitchers in the majors with more Ks in that span are Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow, who have 34 apiece.
»»» Mr. Clutch: Josh Harrison last night hit his first homer of the year and collected three RBI, matching his career best. Harrison is 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position this year, and is batting .328 (19 for 58) with RISP in his career.
»»» Trivia answer: RHP Brad Lincoln made his ML debut June 9, 2010 against the Nats. He pitched six innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. The Pirates lost, 7-5. Tabata went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
Game 38: Pirates @ Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET
Pirates (17-20): 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Casey McGehee 1b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Josh Harrison ss, James McDonald rhp (2-2, 2.42)
Nationals (23-14): 1. Ian Desmond ss, 2. Roger Bernadina lf, 3. Ryan Zimmerman 3b, 4. Adam LaRoche 1b, 5. Bryce Harper rf, 6. Danny Espinosa 2b, 7. Rick Ankiel cf, 8. Jesus Flores c. Jordan Zimmermann rhp (2-3, 2.14)