Hurdles next task is to get Pedro Alvarez going
By John Perrotto
Give Clint Hurdle credit for this much: His first major move as the Pirates’ manager has worked out great within the confines of a small sample size.
Hurdle decided to shake the batting order up last Friday after watching the Pirates score an average of just 3.1 runs in its first 12 games, the worst figure in the National League. He moved center fielder Andrew McCutchen from No. 3 to No. 1, dropped left fielder Jose Tabata from No. 1 to No. 2, shifted first baseman Lyle Overbay from No. 4 to No. 3 and switched second baseman Neil Walker from No. 2 to No. 4.
The Pirates responded by winning three games of a four-game series from the defending National League Central champion Reds that ended Monday night. The Pirates did it with plenty of offense as Hurdle’s shakeup had the desired effect as his club averaged 6.0 runs a game while hitting .312 with a .395 on-base percentage and a .489 slugging percentage.
The primary reason behind Hurdle’s decision was to get Andrew McCutchen’s bat going.
The center fielder had been clearly pressing while batting third after hitting leadoff in the majority of starts during his first two major-league seasons. McCutchen was batting just .220 going into the series at Cincinnati.
McCutchen went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in the series opener but came back to go 5-for-11 with a double, a home run, four RBIs and five walks in the last three games.
The one concern about messing with the lineup was that Tabata had gotten off to a torrid start as the new leadoff hitter. However dropping down to the No. 2, where he most frequently last season a rookie, had no ill effect as he went 7-for-20 with two doubles and one homer. The downside was that Tabata drew only one walk in 21 plate appearances after having 10 bases on balls in his first 12 games.
Overbay went just 2-for-11 in the first three games of the series hitting third but then was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in Monday night’s 9-3 victory after being dropped to No. 6.
Walker certainly didn’t seem bothered by hitting cleanup for the first time in his short major-league career. He was 5-for-14 with five walks in the series.
Hurdle says he will continue with this lineup for the foreseeable future and it’s hard to blame him, though expecting the Pirates to average six runs a game is unrealistic.
Now that Hurdle has gotten McCutchen out of his slump, his next task is to get third baseman Pedro Alvarez untracked. He is hitting .193 with no home runs and four RBIs in 57 at-bats. His plate discipline has also been awful as he has struck out 20 times and has drawn just five walks.
Hurdle benched Alvarez for the second time in five games on Monday. In between the nights off, Alvarez went 2-for-12 with five strikeouts.