If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to catch the St. Louis Cardinals in the standings Clint Hurdle is going to have to do a much better job of managing the back end of the Pirates rotation. Last night he continued a post All-Star Break trend of leaving back of the rotation starting pitchers in the game to give it away in the middle innings. Last night with the Pirates leading 3-1, Jeff Locke started off the 5th inning by issuing two walks to Cardinals hitters. The writing was on the wall – Locke was about to blow this lead. Yet Hurdle stubbornly refused to activate his bullpen. Locke would manage to finish the inning, but not before handing the lead over to the Cardinals. The Pirates lost the game 4-3 to fall 6 games behind the Cardinals in the standings.
It was painful to watch how Hurdle managed that 5th inning. It was so apparent that Locke should be lifted. If this was an early June game I would understand giving Locke some rope. If the Pirates were AHEAD 5 games in the standings over the Cardinals then it would be ok to try to let Mr. Nibbles chew his way out of the 5th inning. But the Pirates are in chase mode and these head to head match ups with the Cardinals are precious. The way Hurdle managed that game last night was flat out negligence.
Jeff Locke is not an ace. You can’t trust him in the middle innings of a close game in a playoff chase like you would Gerrit Cole. Clint Hurdle is obviously struggling with these kind of managerial decisions. Since I am more about solutions than criticisms I have created this Flow Chart to help the Pirates’ skipper know when to lift Jeff Locke: