It may be the oldest trick in the book, but it sounds like Clint Hurdle saved a delicious bit of gamesmanship for all those who made it through all 14 innings of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 4-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
Only a few fans were left at PNC Park when Jose Tabata(notes) (right) won the game with a double off the right field wall with two outs in the bottom of the 14th inning. The hit allowed Josh Rodriguez(notes) to race home all the way from first, but it was possibly some good ol' fashioned baseball trickery that had Colorado manager Jim Tracy making the inexplicable move of pitching to Tabata in the first place.
As Tabata dug in for the at-bat, the Pirates' on-deck circle was inhabited by Andrew McCutchen(notes), giving off the appearance that the star center fielder was due up next. The Pirates' next batter, though, would have been relief pitcher Garrett Olson(notes) since Hurdle had pulled a double-switch earlier and Pittsburgh's bench was now empty.
But instead of walking Tabata to face Olson — he of six career at-bats and one career hit — Tracy elected to pitch to Tabata. That, of course, turned out to be a big mistake.
Hurdle — who used to manage the Rockies and was replaced by Tracy — weakly denied the first bit with a knowing smirk.
Tracy — who used to manage the Pirates — shook his head on the second.
Asked if the move was a decoy to get the Rockies to think McCutchen was up next ... "No, come on, why would we do that," Hurdle said with a sly chuckle.
Tracy's logic, after the game, was that Tabata needed an extra-base hit to beat his team.
"To walk him into scoring position ... I know they have somebody over there that maybe takes a swing and not have to hit the ball very far at all to end up winning the game that way also," he said.
Colin Dunlap of the Post-Gazette did some solid reporting on this and he talked to some Pirates players who believed that Tracy fell for it ... hook, line and sinker. Fellow writer Dejan Kovacevic says he also remembers Tracy's time in Pittsburgh when Tracy messed up some basic baseball strategy. It's probably not too far of a leap for Pirates fans to take when celebrating their new manager — and laughing at their old one — this morning.
But whether or not Tracy was duped is probably irrelevant because the move he did make with the knowledge he claimed was a bad one. As Mark Townsend noted in this morning's Juice, Tabata entered the game tied with the most hits in the majors since the 2010 All-Star break with 104. With two outs, facing Olson was the much safer option.
Assuming that Tracy knew what the real lineup even was, of course.