Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hang This One on the Coaches

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hang This One on the Coaches

Article excerpt

Many will blame suddenly human closer Mark Melancon for this hurtful defeat. The Pirates gave him a three-run lead against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning Friday night and, for the second time in his past two games, he blew the save. The Reds scored three times off him and went on to win, 6-5, in 10 innings on Joey Votto's home run to take the first game of the most important series in PNC Park history.

Many more will blame shortstop Jordy Mercer, as they should. He had a chance to end things in the ninth but threw the ball into the stands after a routine groundball. The Reds made him pay, made Melancon pay, made all of the Pirates pay an enormous price by scoring three unearned runs and going on to win a game they had absolutely no business winning.

A few others might even blame reliever Kyle Farnsworth. He gave up the winning home run to Votto, a drive just inside the left- field foul pole. Those in the crowd of 37,940 who weren't ill after watching that ninth inning were completely sickened by that point.

I'm going to go in a little different direction this morning.

I'm going to put the blame on Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Or at least his coaching staff.

Why wasn't Clint Barmes in the game at shortstop in the ninth with that three-run lead?

"It's only because Jordy made the error that we're asking these questions," Hurdle said.

Well, yeah.

It's OK to start Mercer with the Pirates struggling so often to score runs. He's a much better hitter than Barmes. He had two more singles Friday night, drove in a run and scored a run.

But Barmes is a much better defensive player. It's not even close, actually. Don't you have to get him in a game late with a three-run lead? Certainly, he would have made that play in the ninth inning to end the game.

Hurdle didn't want to go there.

"Once Jordy established himself, he finished every game that he started. …

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