Clint Hurdle does a lot of things his own way, and sometimes the wrong way. Something in particular he is becoming known for is the way he mismanages his bullpen.
In Saturday’s game against the Washington Nationals, Hurdle decided to use Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson and Tony Watson in high-leverage situations. Hurdle refuses to use Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli unless the Pittsburgh Pirates have the lead.
Not using Grilli because it isn’t a save situation is somewhat reasonable, because most managers will do it. However, in a close game, Melancon is your best reliever other than Grilli; he needs to be used.
The Pirates lost Saturday’s game in the 8th inning because Watson was being used in a spot I don’t think he should be used. He pitched against Ryan Zimmerman, and would end up hitting him. I think Watson should be somewhat of a left-handed specialist. Against left-handed hitters, Watson is dominant. He’s good against right-handers, but not nearly as great as he is against lefties. Set-up guys like Melancon would ideally be used in the eighth inning to preserve the lead and be a bridge to the closer. But in a close game, I would love to see Melancon be used just to keep the game close, or in this case, tied. Zimmerman would eventually score the winning run on a sac fly hit by Tyler Moore.
The hilarious thing about Hurdle not using Grilli in the 9th inning Saturday is that once a game is tied in the 9th inning, the home team’s closer can’t even get a save. If the home team takes the lead in the 9th inning or later, it’s a walk-off; there is no lead to “save”. As we speak, the Pirates are losing to the Nationals 6-2 in the 9th inning, and again, Melancon and Grilli haven’t been used. The Pirates’ next game is Tuesday; Grilli and Melancon will probably have to be used in that game just to “get some work in” because they haven’t been used since Friday night.