No doubt, there was some amount of anger or at least disbelief from fans last night when manager Clint Hurdle brought in Jason Grilli to pitch the eighth inning with the Pirates trailing San Diego, 2-0. Grilli had an ERA of 12.00 in four games since coming off the disabled list and had failed to finish the inning in his past three appearances. He gave up two singles to the Padres, but finished the inning without a run scoring.
Hurdle is walking a fine line with Grilli. Of course, these games are crucial and normally should not be entrusted to a pitchers who has performed as poorly as Grilli has since his return. But it's also extremely important that the Pirates try to get Grilli back to the form that made him one of the best closers in MLB.
With a back end of the bullpen that includes Grilli, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon -- regardless of the order -- the Pirates are a significantly better team.
Hurdle needs to find out about Grilli and there's only one way to do that -- pitch him. The dividends could be enormous.
The scenario also presents the toughest of decisions for a manager. If Grilli does not come back to his former form, but is pitching somewhat better, does Hurdle include him on the 25-man postseason roster? Hurdle had to be ruled by his head, not his heart, in making the decision. But removing Grilli, so integral to the team's success this season, from the roster would be the toughest of decisions.
In the white-hot heat of a pennant race the Pirates bats have gone stone cold.
They are averaging 3.3 runs a game, their worst month of the season. The team OPS for September is .672, also the worst month of the season
Who are the culprits?
Pedro Alvarez, 9-for-48 (one HR), .188; Neil Walker, 8-53, .151; Garrett Jones 3-21, .143; Russell Martin 4-for-36, .111. Justin Morneau with one RBI in 46 at bats hitting in the middle of the lineup also belongs in that group despite a .261 (12-for-46) batting average.
These kinds of slumps happen all the time over what has been a 15-game period. But these players need to pick it up if the Pirates are to keep pace with St. Louis and stave off the Cincinnati Reds.
Among those not missing in action this month: Andrew McCutchen, 19-for-49, .396 (.500 on-base percentage); Jordy Mercer 9-for-28, .321; Marlon Byrd, 17-53, .321, with a team-high six RBIs; Jose Tabata, 14-50, .280, also with a team-high six RBIs.
What's up with John Buck? When he came over from the Mets in late August, with Byrd, he looked to be the ideal complement to Russell Martin -- an experienced backup catcher. Buck started on Aug. 29, Sept. 1, 4 and 8. And has since virtually disappeared. He's had one at bat since his last start.
Tony Sanchez, expected to be the No. 3 catcher behind Martin and Buck, started Sept. 10 and 15 -- both times catching Francisco Liriano.
With 15 home runs and 61 RBIs, Buck also would figure to be an ideal pinch-hitter. But, as stated, he had one at bat since Sept. 8.
The television ratings from last night prove once again that the Steelers are the kings of Pittsburgh sports. Thoughts that the Pirates, in the heat of a pennant race, might cut significantly into the dominance the Steelers have long had proved not to be true.
The Steelers had a 39 rating compared to an 11 for the Pirates. The Penguins, playing an exhibition game, had a 3.
First Published September 17, 2013 6:15 PM