Bob Smizik: Frieri does his thing!

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Ten random thoughts on the Pirates and their 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last night:

• What was Clint Hurdle thinking? He didn’t have a lot of options, but -- really -- Ernesto Frieri in a tie game? In the last of the ninth? Against the St. Louis? Frieri got the first two batters, one on a gift from home plate umpire Joe West, and then watched Kolten Wong drill a 3-2 pitch into the right-field stands to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win last night. In four games with the Pirates, since coming over from the Angels in a trade for Jason Grilli, Frieri has allowed six runs and eight hits in three innings. Again: What was Hurdle thinking?

• Hurdle’s options beyond Frieri were these: 1.) Justin Wilson, who gave up the game-winning homer Monday night. Two of the first three St. Louis hitters in the ninth, including Wong, were lefties, as is Wilson, who threw only nine pitches Monday and had three days off before that. 2.) Right-hander Jeanmar Gomez, who had been scored on in only one of his previous six appearances and who also was well rested. Hurdle, correctly, was saving Mark Melancon for a save opportunity and, presumably, Stolmy Pimentel if he needed a long man.

• The Pirates failed to gain ground on Milwaukee, which lost; fell 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis and tumbled into fourth place behind Cincinnati, which took a doubleheader from the Cubs. They remain 4 1/2 games out of first place.

• The batting lines of Pirates first basemen Ike Davis and Gary Sanchez from June 1 through Monday. Davis: .188/.333/.259 -- .592; Sanchez: .191/.269/.255 -- .529. Davis had one homer and 11 RBIs in 85 at-bats; Sanchez no homers and two RBIs in 47 at-bats. General Manager Neal Huntington said Sunday the Pirates had no glaring weaknesses. That’s debatable. What he didn’t say was they have no weaknesses. They do.

• The two-run homer by Pedro Alvarez might cause a temporary cease-fire in the relentless verbal assaults on him, but that truce should not last for long. Something to consider about Alvarez: Since June 1, and not including last night, this is his batting line: .280/.375/.438 -- .813. Which is to say, that while his power output has been disappointing recently, he has not been the total bust some have depicted him as being.

• Francisco Liriano was so impressive in his rehab start at Indianapolis Monday that Hurdle said he’ll be back in the rotation before the All-Star break. That means taking a start away this week from Charlie Morton or Vance Worley, who gave up four runs on nine hits last night. Skipping Morton, who’s not missed a start all season, might have a positive long-term effect on him. Pitching Worley might have a negative short-term effect on the Pirates.

• Jared Hughes continues to be one of the more pleasant surprises of 2014. He pitched two scoreless innings -- one hit, no walks -- and lowered his ERA to 2.02. Hughes has been scored on only once in his past nine outings.

• Hughes has pretty much taken up the role of Bryan Morris, who the Pirates traded to Miami early last month. To say Morris has flourished in his new surroundings would be an understatement. Morris had a 3.80 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP with the Pirates. In 15 games -- 19 2/3 innings -- with the Marlins, he has a 0.00 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. With the Pirates, his K/9 was 5.32 and his K/B 1.17. With Miami, those numbers are 7.78 and 3.40.

• Focusing so closely on the Pirates often means overlooking the warts of other teams. St. Louis rookie Marco Gonzalez, for example, is no Brandon Cumpton. Called up for some spot starts due to injuries, Gonzalez, the team’s No. 1 draft choice in 2013, has pitched 14 innings in three games and allowed 11 earned runs, 21 hits and 11 walks.

• Sitting on the Cardinals‘‍ bench most nights are infielder Mark Ellis, batting, .192 with a .501 OPS; infielder Daniel Descalso, batting .188 with a .480 OPS; outfielder Peter Bourjos. batting .210 with a .595 OPS. To give those numbers some perspective, the OPS of the much-maligned Travis Snider is .638.

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