Almost as if he wanted to disprove the popularly held belief that Stolmy Pimentel was the 2014 winner of the Jeff Clement Scholarship and had no real business playing on a pennant contender in August because the manager didn’t trust him, Clint Hurdle made this monumentally stupid decision. He put Pimentel into in a game in which the outcome was very much in doubt.
And everyone found out once again why the manager didn’t trust him.
Hurdle’s strategy was baffling. After spending most of the year shielding Pimentel from meaningful outings, he dispatched him to face the top of one of the most dangerous batting orders in baseball. The result: A one-run deficit became a four-run deficit and never got any better as the Pirates lost to the Detroit Tigers last night at Comerica Park, 8-4.
Hurdle’s use of his bullpen, invariably first-rate, was peculiar even beyond his decision to bring Pimentel in to face Ezequiel Carrera, Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter.
Vance Worley was presented a 4-1 lead in the fourth, with Travis Snider’s two-run homer being the biggest hit, but he allowed the Tigers to tie the game in the fifth and then go ahead on a home run by Nick Castellanos in the sixth. When Worley walked the next batter, Hurdle brought in Jared Hughes, who induced an inning-ending double play on his fourth pitch.
The situation seemed to call for Hughes to pitch the seventh. But he had worked two innings on Monday and thrown 29 pitches. He also had a 27-pitch inning on Saturday. Caution ruled and Hurdle went with Pimentel, although anyone who had followed the team fully would have expected Jeanmar Gomez to get the call.
Gomez has been used in more leverage situations and hadn’t pitched since Sunday, when he went two innings against San Diego and allowed two runs on three hits and two walks. Pimentel also pitched Sunday, 50 pitches in two innings, and had been scored on in three of his previous four outings.
Make that four of five. Carrera tripled, Kinsler walked and after a steal of second Cabrera was intentionally walked. Martinez, who brought a .937 OPS into the game, lashed a two-run single to right field.
Hurdle didn’t look a whole lot smarter when Gomez then relieved and retired five of the six batters he faced in pitching the seventh and eighth.
The key question here is this: Why is Pimentel on the Pirates roster?
The answer: Since he is out of options, the Pirates are afraid to lose him if they tried to slip him through waivers on his way to the minors.
The next question is this: Why is Pimentel afforded such a status?
There is not logical answer for that. He now has a 5.40 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. He has walked 16 in 31 2/3 innings. His minor-league ERAs from 2010-13 were: 4.06, 6.78, 4.59, 3.35.
Yes, he has a big-time arm. So what? He’s not been able to produce with it. What’s more, if the 2015 season started tomorrow, he would in no way be guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation. So why exactly are the Pirates jeopardizing their chances of winning in 2014 by presenting a scholarship to a player who might not even help them in 2015?
The answer: General manager Neal Huntington’s absolute refusal to part with an asset he considers valuable -- even at the cost of losing a game. In a pennant race.
• Jayson Nix, filling in at second base for the injured Neil Walker, make a crucial throwing error in the fifth that eventually allowed two unearned runs to score. He threw wild trying to get a force out at second base. Nix was hitless in four at bats and is 4-for-28 as a Pirate.
• Pedro Alvarez, in his first start since July 31, was used as the designated hitter and had one hit and three strikeouts in four at bats. Ike Davis, whose first base job Alvarez is trying to take, was 1-for-2 with two walks. Alvarez has a OPS of .710; Davis’ is .729.
• Since July 12, Snider is batting .339 (21-for-62). His full batting line for that period: .339/.397/.677 -- 1.075.