SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – Last night was something of an instruction manual in how not to close out a baseball game.
Starling Marte is fortunate his drop didn’t occur in October. Mistakes happen. We’re human. … But yikes. (Two hands on the wheel, everyone).
Many criticized Clint Hurdle‘s decision in real-time on Twitter to allow the right-handed Bryan Morris to face left-handed Matt Adams in a key situation in the eighth. Adams can really hit, and he smashed a liner to right that appeared to be headed for status as an RBI hit. It was only the perfect defensive positioning of Neil Walker that prevented that decision from blowing up. Where was Tony Watson many wondered?
There was Andrew McCutchen not running on contact when Pete Kozma had to dive and make a stop of Russell Martin groundball in the 10th.
Then there was Mark Melancon ostensibly pitching around the switch-handed Carlos Beltran in favor of pitching to Allen Craig in the ninth. Craig leads baseball in batting with RISP and Melancon is actually more effective pitching to lefties this year due to the heavy use of his cutter.
We haven’t criticized many decisions in this e-space this season.
The Pirates, and Hurdle, have pulled many of the right levers.
But there were a lot of head-scratching decisions and the Pirates were fortunate this wasn’t a game played in October.
ABOUT CHARLIE MORTON …
It was a missed opportunity as Charlie Morton once again pitched well. He out-pitched Adam Wainwright.
Morton has a 21-to-2 groundball-to-flyball ratio over his last two starts. If he was eligible he would lead baseball in groundball rate baseball with a silly 69.1 percent rate.
More of his groundballs seem to find voids in the Pirates defense than other starters. His opponent BABIP is 50 points higher than the staff’s collective rate. Some of this likely bad luck is reason to believe Morton’s numbers will improve going forward. Some of it is likely Morton missing location. But he has missed fewer locations over his last two starts.
What’s clear is his stuff has never been better. His two-seam fastball is averaging 93 mph. Lefties are swinging over the top of his curveball. And there’s room for growth if he starts mixing in his changeup effectively. The Pirates shelved both his cutter and four-seam fastball this season, and if those return he could have more weapons going forward.
His stock is rising.
Some esteemed Pirates bloggers have noted they would slot in Morton as the No. 3 starter in a playoff rotation. He’s making a case. But the Pirates still have to get to a series in October, a chore made more difficult by nights like last night.