Leyland stirred his lineup; why didn’t Hurdle?
With Detroit manager Jim Leyland being all the rage today — his tossed salad lineup ignited the Tigers’ offensive breakout for a 7-3 win over Boston in Game 4 of the ALCS — Pirates fans have to be wondering:
Should that have been Clint Hurdle, in Game 5 of the NLDS?
To review: Starling Marte and Neil Walker, the top two hitters in the Pirates’ lineup, were 1-for-31 prior to the decider against the Cardinals, most recently 0-for-7 in the one-hit loss in Game 4; Hurdle kept his batting order intact and the pair added an 0-for-7 as the Bucs went down, 6-1, and out.
There are some interesting analogies. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter, normally Detroit’s 1-2 hitters, had been 4-for-27 without an RBI in the first three games against the Red Sox and went 3-for-7 and drove in four runs as No. 1 and No. 8, respectively. Leyland moved his Andrew McCutchen — Miguel Cabrera — from No. 3 to No. 2 and he went 2-for-4 with two more RBIs.
Was Hurdle wrong to stay with the identical lineup through all five games — with a one-time exception of starting Jordy Mercer over Clint Barmes at short — in his stated belief that “hitters hit. The longer they go without hitting, the more they’re due”?
Certainly a point to argue, but there was one major difference in the circumstances: The Bucs were tied after four games, and had produced 14 runs in the four games; the Tigers were down 1-2 and had scored a total of six runs.
Marte and Walker obviously had not contributed to that four-game production, had been carried by the others. In Hurdle’s view, that bought them time to get untracked. It didn’t work. Leyland’s mad-scientist approach did work.