There was a big situation in tonight’s game that pretty much summed up all of my feelings about what is wrong with the closer’s role. The Pirates had a comfortable 8-4 lead in the seventh inning. Then Jared Hughes and Tony Watson combined to give up three runs while recording zero outs, making the score 8-7.
Watson was pulled and Brad Lincoln was brought in with two runners on. Lincoln responded with two key strikeouts and a fly out to escape the jam and preserve the lead. The Pirates scored three runs in the top half of the eighth, adding some insurance and gaining back their four run lead.
Jason Grilli preserved the four run lead in the eighth. The Pirates carried that four run lead in to the ninth inning, where Joel Hanrahan came on in a non-save situation. Hanrahan pitched a scoreless inning, allowing just one walk, and the Pirates took the game 11-7.
To recap, the Pirates used their best reliever to get through an inning where they had a four run lead. They also used their second best reliever an inning earlier to preserve another four run lead. But with the bullpen falling apart, the other team gaining momentum, and the tying and go ahead runs on base with no outs, the Pirates opted to leave their best guys in the bullpen, all because you can’t use your best guys prior to the 8th and 9th innings, even if your lead might not make it to those innings.
Lincoln has been outstanding in the bullpen this year, and tonight was just another key example. He’s looking like a closer candidate in the future. Unfortunately, that means he’ll be limited to ninth inning duties, and the Pirates will have to find someone as good as Lincoln to handle all of those key situations that a closer can’t participate in, all because they come before the ninth inning.
Links and Notes
**The Pirates beat the Phillies 11-7. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at the three key homers, plus the key relief appearance by Brad Lincoln.
**Prospect Watch: Home Runs Hurt Taillon; Hanson Leaves Game.
**Clint Hurdle feels the mentality is different this year.