NLDS NOTEBOOK: Cole to start Game 5 for Pirates
PITTSBURGH — His heart might have said one thing, but Clint Hurdle’s head said another.
After the Pirates’ 2-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at PNC Park, Hurdle, Pittsburgh’s manager, announced that rookie Gerrit Cole will start Game 5 on Wednesday in St. Louis.
Hurdle chose to start Cole over 36-year old A.J. Burnett, who started Game 1 and gave up seven runs in a 9-1 loss. Based on the rotation Hurdle set up before the postseason began, Burnett would be next in line to start Game 5.
Instead, Burnett could be in line to start Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, should the Pirates beat St. Louis on Wednesday. The NLCS is scheduled to begin Friday, with either the Pirates or Cardinals facing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hurdle said he settled on Cole over Burnett because of Burnett’s struggles at Busch Stadium, where he was rocked for seven runs in two-plus innings in the series opener.
“We have one game to win,” Hurdle said. “I believe that matchup is the best we can do to beat the Cardinals in Game 5.”
Cole pitched Game 2, and earned the win as Pittsburgh claimed a 7-1 victory.
Adam Wainwright, the Game 1 winner, will start for the Cardinals.
BETTING ON THE MAN: The numbers screamed for Hurdle to pinch-hit for slugger Pedro Alvarez in Game 3 on Sunday.
The Cardinals brought in overpowering left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist with runners on first and second with one out in a tie game. The left-handed-hitting Alvarez came in batting just .180 against lefties this season and was 0-for-5 against Siegrist. The Pirates had right-handed Gaby Sanchez — who hit .333 against lefties — in the dugout ready to go.
Instead, Hurdle opted to keep Alvarez in the game. The result? A sharp RBI single to right field that scored pinch-runner Josh Harrison and helped the Pirates to a 5-3 win.
Hurdle insisted he wasn’t trying to buck convention but instead stick with the ethos that he’s managed by since the day he took over in December 2010.
“Belief,” Hurdle said. “It’s part of his growth. (It’s about) giving young players opportunities to do meaningful things in meaningful situations.”
THRIVING AT SECOND: Matt Carpenter wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea initially when the St. Louis Cardinals told him they were moving him from third base to second in 2013.
The Cardinals made the move to clear up a logjam at third. Rather than have to split at-bats between Carpenter and David Freese, St. Louis was searching for a way to get them both in the lineup.
It worked out better than Carpenter or the Cardinals could have imagined. The leadoff man led the National League with 199 hits, smacked 55 doubles and made the All-Star team. He was just as much of a find in the field, where his soft hands made it appear he’d been playing second for years.
The transition, however, was harder than it looked.
“It was a challenge,” Carpenter said. “To be able to convert from corner infield, corner outfield guy to middle infield was definitely a challenge. It’s something we put a lot of work in.”