Pirates still have issues to address as postseason approaches
By Travis Sawchik
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 9:45 p.m.
CHICAGO — After the champagne and beer had been sprayed and consumed during a celebration that soaked the Wrigley Field visiting clubhouse carpet, the Pirates awoke to a sobering reality Tuesday.
They must deal with several significant issues as the close of the season draws near.
The Pirates' offense continues to weigh down the team. And what was once their chief strength, the bullpen, has become a question mark.
Before last Wednesday, the club had converted 68 of 70 leads after the seventh inning into wins. But the Pirates entered Tuesday having lost two out of their last five games when leading after seven.
And it was nearly three of five. That fate was avoided only by the remarkable 9-8-3-2 putout to end Monday's win.
Mark Melancon had been the game's best setup man for much of the season. But on Monday he blew his third save in as many appearances.
“Maybe the season is catching up to him a little bit for a guy that set the bar so high with swings and misses and dynamic mis-hits,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Guys are catching a little more of the ball, and the ball is finding grass. I think we have some time to make a couple of minor adjustments, and a couple were made last night.”
Hurdle said he took Charlie Morton out after throwing 89 pitches Monday because he wants Melancon and Grilli to again become accustomed to pitching the eighth and ninth innings.
“I want to put the wheels back on our bullpen the way we had it early, when we were most efficient team in baseball pitching out of the bullpen,” Hurdle said.
Grilli hasn't looked like the pitcher he was before he was injured in July. He nearly gave away the lead in a second consecutive outing Monday.
Grilli left a 92 mph fastball out over the plate to Ryan Sweeney, who lined the ball into the right-center gap. Only an accurate relay throw from Justin Morneau allowed the Pirates to escape with win No. 90.
Morneau, the club's cleanup hitter, has not been the antidote to the Pirates' season-long offensive struggles since he was acquired from the Twins.
The Pirates entered Tuesday batting .231 and scoring 3.5 runs per game in September.
In August with the Twins, Morneau homered nine times and drove in 21 runs in 116 at-bats. In 67 September at-bats with the Pirates, Morneau has just two RBI and no homers.
“He wasn't in a pennant race, and now he's in pennant race and maybe getting outside of himself,” Hurdle said. “We've had a couple conversations.”
Hurdle said he believes all three struggling players are akin to buy-low stock opportunities. Said Hurdle: “For me (struggles) just means they're just going to get hot again.”
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates should exploit free-swinging Brewers
- Pirates notebook: Tabata OK’d to return to play
- Patience pays off as starting pitcher Volquez gets 1st win for Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Walker’s razor a right-handed swing solution
- Breaking down Thursday’s Pirates-Brewers game
- Biertempfel: Expect less yelling with MLB’s replay system
- One-time Bucs pitching prospect now a promising power hitter
- Breaking down Sunday’s Pirates-Brewers game
- Stats Corner: Pedro adds contact, patience to power game
- Pirates notebook: Sore ankle doesn’t hinder McCutchen
- Pirates’ bats finding success looking other way