Colin Dunlap: Clint Hurdle Isn’t Waiting Around
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Clint Hurdle isn’t waiting around.
Now, it’s only May-about-to-be-June, but if his actions in the seventh inning on Wednesday night against the Tigers are any indication — in what eventually turned into a 5-3 victory — Hurdle isn’t waiting on anything. He isn’t going to be patient or reactionary with the season.
And, for such a tack, I offer a loud, roaring round of applause.
Good on you, Clint.
Don’t ask why someone left the door open, just run through it.
About that seventh inning on Wednesday against the Tigers …
The Pirates entered the inning down 3-1 and left with a 5-3 lead, batting around against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, who had been sailing. After stringing together a few hits — mixed in with a walk — Hurdle called for a suicide squeeze with his team ahead, 4-3.
On the play, Travis Snider jolted home from third as Jordy Mercer dropped down a perfect bunt amid the chaos. So perfect was the bunt that, not only did Snider score, but Mercer zipped through the bag at first with no Tigers player covering.
The Tigers were seemingly caught as off-guard as most of the people watching. This was a mile-marker of sorts for the franchise, as much of a mile-marker can be at the end of May as a team was turning their record into 33-20.
The play screamed, loud and clear, that these were the take-the-game-to-you Pirates, no longer the we-are-content-to-just-hang-around Pirates.
Be assured, there is a wide discrepancy between those two feelings hanging around a baseball team.
Also be assured of this: Hurdle commanded even more respect within those clubhouse walls for making the squeeze call. Players want to play that way.
For his part, Hurdle said, wryly, “It just seemed like the right time to push the envelope a little bit and get another run.”
Believe me, if — and again there is a long, long summer yet to play — the Pirates go on to have a winning season and break the decades-long losing skid, that call by Hurdle might serve to be the most emblematic moment for the shift the manager has forced between the ears with these guys.
Remember, this is the same manager who, at times in the past few seasons, has been ultra-conservative with his bullpen usage in late-inning situations in tied games.
Such a template has infuriated fans.
Whether it was the now-departed Joel Hanrahan or current back-end bullpen guys Jason Grilli or Mark Melancon, Hurdle has leaned heavily toward the unadventurous approach.
Even that changed earlier this month, when in a game May 9, Hurdle went against his general concept to bring in Grilli in a tied game in the ninth inning, doing so against the Mets.
Perhaps Clint Hurdle understands that his team has reached a 33-20 record with a little smoke and mirrors. Or, maybe Hurdle realizes he should turn a new leaf and manage a bit more aggressively.
Whatever it is, the call like the one Wednesday night when Hurdle commanded his team to employ the suicide squeeze is one of a manager not waiting around to see how things work out.
No, it was a decision of a manager taking control of the situation and ready to live or die with his actions.
And it is exactly what this team needs.
Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here (http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/personality/colin-dunlap/)