Pirates notebook: Hurdle names Cole his Game 5 starter
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle waited until he was sure the National League Division Series would go the distance before naming his starter for Game 5.
Rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole is Hurdle's choice to face the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
The past few days Hurdle avoided naming either Cole or veteran A.J. Burnett. Hurdle said he stayed mum for so long to “eliminate any of what we felt might be distractions, either way.”
Wednesday would be Burnett's normal turn in the rotation, and he would be pitching on an extra day's rest. But in Game 1 in St. Louis, Burnett was torched for seven runs in two innings. In five career starts for the Pirates at Busch Stadium, Burnett has a 15.50 ERA and a 2.61 WHIP.
Cole was impressive in Game 2, when he allowed one run in six innings.
“We have one game to win,” Hurdle said. “We need to do the best we can to win that next game. I believe (Cole) is the best we can do to be the Cardinals in Game 5.”
Cole declined to speak with reporters after Game 4 on Monday.
“It's a difficult decision because (Burnett) meant so much, and we've asked so much of him while he's been here,” Hurdle said. “(Busch Stadium) has been a very challenging park for him. If it was any other venue, he would have gotten the ball.”
When asked whether Burnett will be available in the bullpen Wednesday, Hurdle said, “I don't have an answer for your on that right now.”
One missed opportunity ...
Pedro Alvarez's one-out homer in the eighth inning Wednesday was the Pirates' first hit off Cardinals righty Michael Wacha. The next batter, Russell Martin, walked and was replaced by pinch runner Josh Harrison.
Wacha was replaced by righty Carlos Martinez, the crowd came alive, and the Pirates had a chance to tie the game. But when pinch hitter Jose Tabata swung and missed on a hit-and-run play, Harrison was thrown out at second base.
“I got a pretty good jump,” Harrison said. “But (Martinez) is quick to the plate, and (catcher Yadier Molina) made a pretty decent throw. As I slid, my hand got stuck (in the dirt) a little bit. I didn't slide too early. I was right on time, I just didn't get as much acceleration as I usually do on the wet field. It's baseball, and you live and die with those chances that you take.”
Tabata then struck out, ending the inning.
... and another
In the ninth inning, Neil Walker walked with two outs against closer Trevor Rosenthal. Andrew McCutchen watched three balls, took a strike, then swung at a 96 mph fastball and popped out to second baseman Matt Carpenter.
“I know Rosenthal has a hard fastball, and it sometimes can cut,” McCutchen said. “I took 3-0 because he still had to come to me. I was looking to drive the ball to right-center. He gave me a pitch, and I just ran out of barrel, it looked like.”
Minutes after the game, McCutchen reviewed his final at-bat in the video room.
“I was right on it, but it just kind of cut a little bit and went off the end of the bat,” McCutchen said. “Good pitch for him. I wish it would've hit a little more of the barrel. It would've been a great story.”
Van Slyke bleeds black, gold
Decked out in Pirates' black, Andy Van Slyke got a rousing ovation from the PNC Park sellout crowd when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 4 of the National League Division Series against St. Louis on Monday.
The former center fielder, a member of three Pirates playoff teams in the early 1990s, was the latest guest of honor in the club's postseason stroll down memory lane. Pitcher Doug Drabek, an ex-teammate, threw out the first pitch before last week's wild-card game against Cincinnati, and former owner Kevin McClatchy filled the job Sunday before Game 3.
“Actually it was more exciting than playing in my first playoff game with the Pirates,” Van Slyke said. “It's an accumulation of the feelings of everybody else in Pittsburgh. It's been over 20 years that the Pirate uniform's been in the postseason. So just to be associated with it any way makes me feel proud, and hopefully these guys can get it done where we didn't.”
The three playoff teams on which Van Slyke played from 1990 through 1992 never advanced to the World Series.
Coincidentally, Van Slyke played for the Cardinals before coming to the Pirates in a trade before the 1987 season, and he lives in the St. Louis area.
“My roots started in St. Louis. I started a family in St. Louis,” he said. “I have a divided heart, to be honest with you. I think my heart pumps out red, and it pumps in black.”
But there is yet another color. His son, Scott, plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lead Atlanta, 2-1 in the other NLDS.
“I probably pump blue first,” Van Slyke said. “I win regardless what happens. As a former player, having your son play for a playoff team. ... My emotional ties are much greater in Pittsburgh and St. Louis. But I'd love to see the Dodgers win and go to the World Series and have a Van Slyke be on a World Series winning team.”
During 13 seasons, mostly with the Cardinals and Pirates, Van Slyke was a three-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove winner and twice a Silver Slugger recipient.
When Pirates closer Jason Grilli looks around the Pirates' clubhouse, he sees ... Pittsburgh.
“We mirror the people here,” Grilli said. “When you see how passionate they are, how hard-working they are, it's easy to fit in and want to be a part of that. It's inspiring because when you get crowds like we've been getting, it's easy to play for these people, because they give us a lot of energy.”
Why pitch to Beltran?
Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran entered Game 4 batting .333 (4 for 12) over the first three games. He had hit two of his team's three home runs and six of its 10 RBI.
Should the Pirates just pitch around him the rest of the way?
“It's a good question,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Game 4. “It's always a tough call for a manager. You believe you can get balls to spots where you can get some outs. Then when you don't, you are kind of like, ‘Duh. Would've, could've, should've.' Beltran has been doing this for years, and we're all aware.”
Reliever Mark Melancon faced Beltran in Game 2 and induced a groundout to first base. In Game 3, Beltran belted a game-tying homer off Melancon.
“It still comes down to location a lot of times,” Hurdle said. “But the problem for me right now is that guy (Matt Holliday) hitting behind Beltran is a pretty good hitter, as well. You have to pick which guy you want to go after and which guy you don't want to deal with. I think it's a gut feeling at that time, is what it comes down to.”
If Sunday's game had gone extra innings — which seemed possible when the game was tied 3-3 in the eighth inning — Cardinals manager Mike Matheny might have used Game 4 starter Michael Wacha out of the bullpen.
“If things had gone crazy, we had Michael ready,” Matheny said Monday.
If Wacha would have pitched in relief, Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright would have started Monday on three days' rest. Wainwright worked seven innings Thursday in the Cardinals' series-opening, 9-1 victory.
‘Here we go'
Pirates backup Josh Harrison got his first taste of postseason play Sunday when he pinch ran for Justin Morneau in the bottom of the eighth. Harrison went to second on a walk, and when the Cardinals changed pitchers with Pedro Alvarez up to bat, Harrison walked over to have a word with third base coach Nick Leyva.
“I told him to get his arm ready,” Harrison said.
Alvarez singled to right field.
“As I was running I was looking (at Leyva),” Harrison said. “And as he was waving, I was like, ‘All right. Here we go.' Pedro put a good swing on the ball and allowed me to score”