Hague comes through as Pirates take 2 of 3 from Phillies
You have to credit Pirates manager Clint Hurdle for having the wisdom and perhaps for summoning the courage to pinch-hit Matt Hague for Pedro Alvarez in the eighth inning Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The move enabled the Pirates to erase a three-run deficit and tie the score. They won it in the ninth inning on Andrew McCutchen's two-out single.
"We'll do whatever we need to do to win games," Alvarez said. "It's huge when you can take two out of three from a very good team like the Phillies. It shows the kind of team we are."
Trailing 4-3 in the eighth, the Pirates had two runners on base with two outs. Alvarez had already scored two runs and crushed a titanic solo homer. But with a left-handed reliever on the mound, Hurdle called on Hague, a right-handed rookie with just three hitless at-bats on his resume.
"It was not a layup in my mind," Hurdle admitted. "You want to be an optimist, but you need to be a realist. I don't envision Pedro is going to be pinch hit for a lot in his career. I felt the best bet for our team at that time was to make that move."
Hague looped a single into shallow left field his first major league hit and RBI. McCutchen, who'd led off the inning with a single, scored to tie it at 4.
"I watched it as I was running to first base," Hague said. "When I saw it drop, the weight was off my shoulders. I can take a breath now and have some fun."
As Hague reached the bag, Alvarez stood on the top step of the dugout and cheered.
"It's not a tough situation," Alvarez said. "Matt's one of my best friends, so I couldn't be any happier for him."
As the second overall pick in 2008, Alvarez was hailed, fairly or not, as the savior of a punchless lineup. Hague, who was drafted in the ninth round in '08, has always been able to hit, but scouts wonder whether he has enough power to excel in the majors.
Alvarez struggled last season, and the slump continued this year in spring training. Alvarez made the team, but Hurdle decided he will bench him against most left-handed pitchers.
"Clint's going to put out the lineup that he feels gives us the best chance to win," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We don't run anyone whether it's Pedro, Garrett Jones or Alex Presley out there against some of these dominant left-handers get them off to a bad start. At the same time, you don't want to develop a platoon mindset."
Facing righty starter Vance Worley, Alvarez led off the fifth inning with a towering solo homer that cleared the right field seats and landed near a concession stand on the concourse.
"It felt good to put a good swing and hit a ball solid," Alvarez said. "The fact that it's a home run is a plus."
In the seventh inning, Alvarez's heads-up hustle led to another run. He struck out but reached base when catcher Brian Schneider dropped the ball and first baseman Ty Wigginton booted the throw.
"I was trying make them throw the ball, because anything can happen," Alvarez said. "I'm just glad I ran."
Casey McGehee's two-out double scored Alvarez. Presley stroked a run-scoring single to score McGehee and trim the Phillies' lead to 4-3.