By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media
Brief and to the Point …
I like Clint Hurdle. A lot. He’s as good a man as I’ve encountered in sports.
But he just blew whatever last gasp the Pirates might have had.
For those of you who didn’t stay up into the wee hours of this morning or who simply — and understandably — gave up after the Cubs sweep, here are three thoughts I had after the Pirates’ excruciating, stupefying 4-3 loss to the Reds in 14 innings …
1. Going back to the pregame, why was Rod Barajas’ name in the lineup for a fifth time in seven games?
There is nothing remotely logical about this.
And assuming there was, it was blown to bits when Hurdle really need a run late and pinch-hit Michael McKenry for Barajas.
2. And this is second only for the chronology.
Wandy Rodriguez was throwing a one-hitter through six innings. He was in complete control, looking confident to boot.
With two outs in the seventh inning, with his pitch count at just 89 and with the Reds reaching on two terribly soft hits, Hurdle astonishingly emerged from the dugout to lift Rodriguez.
Rodriguez appeared contained and respectful but, at the same time, visibly furious. You could see it in his eyes. And you should have seen it in his eyes.
Jared Hughes entered and immediately gave up a two-run double that tied the score for the Reds.
This was Hurdle’s explanation to the reporters in Cincinnati for lifting Rodriguez: “He was probably only going to get one more hitter, anyway, so I decided to make the move now. It’s the second-worst feeling for a manager when you make that move and it doesn’t work. The worst one is when you leave the pitcher in and the guy hits a home run.”
You don’t think everyone, Rodriguez included, could have lived with a home run by Dioner Navarro there?
Hurdle also turned that answer into something about Navarro being hot (So you lift your hottest pitcher?), about how Rodriguez couldn’t have gone 100 pitches (He wasn’t close), then turned it toward all the offensive chances the Pirates blew.
I’ve heard Hurdle take ownership of mistakes. Not this time.
That’s not good. Most of you will recall John Russell yanking Zach Duke an out shy of a shutout. Almost all of you will recall Hurdle leaving Daniel McCutchen out to roast in the Jerry Meals game. In both cases, the clubhouses were furious with the manager.
I’m not in Cincinnati, and I don’t care to project what the sentiment is. But speaking specifically to the past, this sort of thing doesn’t play well.
You can find Rodriguez’s comments in our coverage by Rob Biertempfel in that link I have up above.
3. This might go ignored because of all the other stuff, including the nastiness involving Brandon Phillips, but it shouldn’t: Where was Garrett Jones?
Answer: Chase d’Arnaud pinch-ran for him in the 10th.
This one you won’t believe. Hope you’re sitting down.
Andrew McCutchen and Jones led off the 10th with walks. The score was tied, so McCutchen represented the go-ahead run and Jones insurance. So Hurdle sent d’Arnaud out to run for Jones who … um, is a pretty good runner for a big man.
Long story short, the Pirates fail to score, d’Arnaud goes 0 for 2 in stranding three runners after that, then boots the grounder that results in the Reds’ winning run.
All while the Pirates’ only consistent hitter in the second half watches the final four innings from the dugout.
The managing was so abysmal in this game that Eric Fryer, the organization’s ninth-string catcher, was out in right field on the winning play.
That’s all I have on this, except to add robust applause for Greg Brown and John Wehner for calling out this madness after the game on the broadcast. They’re paid by the Pirates, but they told it like it is. Good for them.
>> Oh, and unrelated to the above, at around 2 a.m., Phillips tweeted out something accusing ‘another player’ of racism.
>> I’ll be back tomorrow with a column on the Steelers’ defense.
>> Before that, I’ll be a guest on TribLIVE Radio today at 12:30 p.m.