Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/22/14 thru 9/28/14, the final week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 regular season.
Weekly result: 4 Wins and 3 Loss, 26 Runs Scored and 24 Runs Allowed
Hero of the week: Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen made a late push for a second MVP with a solid week to close out the season. Cutch had 9 hits in 22 ABs this week and drew 7 walks. He also knocked in 8 runs and scored 7 runs.
Zero of the week: Jeff Locke. The Pirates were hot on the heels of the NL Central Division leading Cardinals and were riding a wave of momentum until Locke pitched an absolute dud against the Braves on Wednesday. Locke was shelled for 8 hits and walked 5 batters in just 4 innings before leaving the game with the Pirates trailing 6-0.
How do you spell relief? M-A-R-K M-E-L-A-N-C-O-N. Mark The Shark notched two saves in his only two appearances of the week. He pitched two scoreless innings while striking out three.
#HURDLED: The Pirates chose to take a long shot at winning the division and not alter their rotation to set up Gerrit Cole for the more likely scenario of a Wild Card game against the Giants. Instead Clint Hurdle gave the ball to Cole on the final day of the regular season despite the Pirates not holding their own destiny. Cole did not disappoint. He racked up 12 Ks and allowed just 1 ER over 7 innings, but the effort was wasted as the Pirates couldn’t muster any offense against Johnny Cueto. The bullpen imploded in the 8th inning and with it the chance of forcing a 1 game playoff with the Cardinals to claim the NL Central Division was lost. Now the Pirates hopes of advancing past the Wild Card game relies on the arm of Edinson Volquez. I would have preferred Cole. I suspect deep down Clint Hurdle would too. I do find it admiral that Hurdle chose to chase the bigger prize. As foolish as it was, it seems that it was an organizational decision to start Cole on Sunday against the Reds. That decision would have made much more sense had Clint Hurdle pulled out all the stops in games earlier in the week. Instead he stuck with Jeff Locke far too long in a loss against Atlanta, and on Saturday the Pirates lost in 10 innings with Bobby LaFromboise on the hill while Mark Melancon sat unused in the bullpen. This was not Clint Hurdle’s finest week.
The little things that matter: Gerrit Cole pitched a gem on Sunday but the difference in this game was that Johnny Cueto did a better job with the bat. Chris Stewart hit a lead off double in the 5th inning, but Gerrit Cole laid down a poor bunt that allowed the Reds to throw out Stewart at third base. It was an opportunity lost for the Pirates. In the 8th inning Reds manager Bryan Price inexplicably allowed Cueto to hit with a runner on 3rd base. Cueto would run the count full against Tony Watson before slapping a slow roller through the Pirates drawn in infield to put the Reds ahead 2-1.
It must be Hidden Vigorish: It finally happened. Francisco Liriano scored a run. Prior to the 5th inning on Saturday Liriano had batted 128 times previously in his MLB career. He had 9 hits and 8 walks but had never touched home plated safely. That changed on Saturday when Liriano reached base on a single off of Yorman Rodriguez and later scored on a Neil Walker base hit.
Records and Milestones: Qualifying for the playoff is a pretty big achievement. The Pirates did that when they clinched a Wild Card after beating the Braves 3-2 on Tuesday night. Andrew McCutchen also hit is his 200th career double.
He said what: Pirates Bench Coach Jeff Banister has been with the organization a very long time. He was drafted by the Pirates in 1986. After calling it quits as a player following the 1993, the team hired him as a minor league instructor in 1994. He has been a coach in some capacity with the Pirates ever since. Banister remembers losing to Atlanta in heartbreaking fashion in the 1992 NLCS, so it wasn’t lost on him what it meant for the Pirates to clinch a playoff berth this week in that same city.
To do this on this field in this city against that organization is what I’ll always remember.
Tweet of the week: Tony Sanchez goes double barrel action with some cold ones during the Pirates playoff clinching celebration.
— Forbes to Federal (@ForbesToFederal) September 24, 2014
Front Office Notes: The Pirates announced that Charlie Morton had hip labrum surgery. The recovery time is 6-8 months which means he might not be ready for opening day 2015.
On The Farm: Johan De Jesus was suspended 72 games for PED use. De Jesus is an infielder that spent the 2014 season with the Pirates Dominican Summer League team.
Highlight of the week: Tony Watson gets Freddie Freeman to ground into a game ending double play to make it back-to-back Buctobers.