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About last night: You can’t have it both ways…. Did Bud Black find Mark Melancon’s weakness … And does McCutchen have to do even more lifting?


PNC PARK – Some are criticizing Clint Hurdle for not leaving Charlie Morton in for the ninth inning Wednesday, in the Pirates’ third straight loss to the Padres, which came via a soul-crushing blown save by Mark Melancon.


Morton was excellent. But I can’t fault Hurdle. Morton was at 99 pitches, he hasn’t thrown more than 104 in a start this season. Just days earlier, some were criticizing Hurdle for leaving AJ Burnett in too long. And an argument can be made to support the the idea that Burnett, or any pitcher, should never go beyond 100 pitches. Burnett has a .985 opponent OPS when facing a lineup for a fourth time.


The numbers suggest that pitchers decrease in effectiveness every time they go through a lineup. They fatigue, they show batters pitches, and batters adjust to sequence, stuff and velocity.


Eventually one manager will have dramatic success using a piggy-back style staff and it will be copied. (We’re waiting on you, Joe Madden)


But beyond that radical concept, it made sense for Hurdle to trust the formula, to trust his bullpen, to trust Melancon who entered with a 1.10 ERA. Even the best relievers blow saves. The Pirates entered 74-2 when leading after eight innings. Things happen. It’s just that this happened in a September pennant race.


But you have to tip your cap to Bud Black on Wednesday.


Black loaded up on right-handed batters against the right-handed Melancon, which seems counter-intuitive.
But Melancon’s best pitch is the cutter, which he throws on more than half his offerings. It’s lethal against left-handed hitters. Lefties entered batting .148 on the season against Melancon, righties are hitting .259.


Expect this to be adopted more often by managers.


Melancon has now given up more runs in September (4) than August, July and June combined (3).




The blown save and loss robbed Andrew McCutchen of an MVP moment. In the seventh inning McCutchen crushed a two-run, opposite-field home run, his 20th homer of the year, to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.


PNC Park erupted into M-V-P chants. McCutchen is the NL’s version of Mike Trout. He has a 8.0 WAR value in 2013, which is remarkable.


The Pirates’ offense is again lifeless, with only McCutchen’s bat seemingly awake.┬áSo can McCutchen do even more?










The landing spot – right-center – was of particular interest to me Wednesday because McCutchen has not had as much success hitting to the opposite field with power this season. This has puzzled McCutchen because he feels he’s hitting the ball with the same authority he just hasn’t had the same results. And his ball-off-bat exit velocity is the same.


So perhaps, McCutchen’s oppo shot Wednesday is the beginning of him finding an opposite-field groove like last seasons. A reach, yeah, but McCutchen is due for more opposite field power. And the Pirates need something more on offense.





– TS



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