Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle inserted right fielder Jose Tabata into the lineup batting second tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals, but he said that he could revisit batting Clint Barmes in the two spot.
Barmes hit second against the Arizona Diamondbacks for the final game of three-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday. He went 1-for-3 with a run and a sac bunt to push Alex Presley to second base in the 6th inning.
“It very could be,” Hurdle said on whether he would revisit batting Barmes second. ” The same reason I’m putting Tabata back in there today. It’s one of the better spots in our lineup to hit with [Andrew] McCutchen hitting third. The game has changed dramatically. There used to be a lot of pitching around guys, you don’t want to walk this guy. You don’t see that as much anymore. They pitch to people whether they’re supposed to pitch to people. Sometimes just getting out of the environment they were in, getting them in a fresh environment where the responsibility might be a little different can help. It could be something we could revisit.”
— Over the Pirates first 12 games of the season, the Bucs have yet to score or allow more than five runs in any contest –the first team in the Majors to accomplish the feat since the 1972 Kansas City Royals.
The club enters game action with a 5-7 record and have played four straight one-run games to start the season, and eight of their first 12 games overall have been decided by the closest of margins. Hurdle talked about having to manage the team differently knowing the club will most likely play in close ballgames.
“You have a game plan going in and it’s always for our starter to go seven,” Hurdle said. “When the starter doesn’t go seven, you readjust from there. There are times where you’ll take shots earlier in the game. Example being James [McDonald's] start in Arizona. Different time frame, not a day off the next day, you might let him work through it. You might gamble that we let him hit in that situation. Hopefully he can finish that inning, holy cow maybe he goes two more and stays around 100 or so, goes above it. But at that point, runners on the corners facing Hudson, you give the shot to the hitter. We lined out to right field.
“I feel confident and comfortable with the bullpen with the pitchers that we got out there. But you can’t keep going at it that way. You got to pick your spots…We need to have pitch efficiently from our starters. J-Mac in particular. You do kind of look for opportunities where you do something differently. You just don’t let them swing away and play for the big inning.”
– Right-hander Charlie Morton will make his second start of the 2012 season, the first at home in Pittsburgh. Morton allowed three runs on seven hits over 5.0 innings with no walks and two strikeouts in his debut in San Francisco.
The St. Louis Cardinals lineup will consist of three lefties and two switch-hitters in the lineup against Morton.
“You’re not going to throw anymore left-handers really than the Giants did to Charlie,” Hurdle said. “We saw it last year. He had games where he pitched extremely well. The one thing that you do hold onto, if you break down the hits, the average jumps out at you. Oh my gosh. These guys just crush him. Well, then you break down the percentage of those hits that are ground ball hits that are just getting by the infielders and finding outfield grass. That gives a little bit different look. He does have to sink the ball efficiently. He’s also got to work something in tight.”
“It’s really the command of the sinker, and having those complementary pitches so they can’t lean out over the plate. They just give up on the inside part of the plate. They lean over, they wait for a mistake that’s elevated. You saw a sequence in San Francisco where they hit three bullets up the middle. After that, he was able to get the ball in a little bit better, make them a little bit more unconformable. That’s always going to be the part of any sinker ball pitchers package. That was one of the biggest improvements [Cy Young Award Winner Roy] Halladay made in his involvement. That’s when he started becoming the big game pitcher that he is now.”
Morton led the Majors with a 76% ground ball ratio in 2011, which earned him the nickname, “ground chuck.”
“He’s always one pitch away from getting out of an inning,” Hurdle said. “More so than any other pitcher on or staff. And more so than most pitchers in the National League right now.”
– Pirates Lineup: Alex Presley LF, Jose Tabata RF, Andrew McCutchen CF, Neil Walker 2B, Garrett Jones 1B, Rod Barajas C, Pedro Alvarez 3B, Clint Barmes SS, Charlie Morton RHP
– Cardinals lineup: Rafeal Furcal SS, Matt Carpenter 1B, Matt Holliday LF, Carlos Beltran RF, David Freese 3B, Yadier Molina C, Skip Schumaker CF, Daniel Descalso 2B, Lance Lynn RHP