Hurdle addresses Polanco's baserunning gaffe
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has seen a lot during his time as a player, coach and manager. But the fourth inning of Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over Atlanta on Friday night presented something entirely new to Hurdle.
Gregory Polanco was on first base, and Jordy Mercer stood at second. Chris Stewart knocked a ground ball deep into the hole, but Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons stopped it, got up and fired to first base.
Stewart reached safely, and Polanco wheeled around the bases with his head down until he slid into third base ... where Mercer had stopped.
"It's the first time I've seen a guy pop-up slide to third with one of our own runners on third," Hurdle said.
As a result, Polanco was caught in a rundown between second and third, tagged out for the final out of the inning. It was a mental mistake for Polanco, who admitted Saturday that he lost sight of Mercer.
Polanco said he was just trying to be aggressive and take the extra base, assuming that Mercer had gone home on Simmons' throw to first.
"I just didn't pick up the runner," Polanco said. "I didn't see him, if he went or not."
The Pirates went on to win in the 10th inning, but Hurdle made it clear Saturday that Polanco's baserunning gaffe was addressed.
"We don't stick our head in the sand," Hurdle said. "Winning can be a deodorant. I've been in situations where things are overlooked when you win, and then they're overcooked when you don't. Not so here."
The two players who erred on the bases Friday night -- Polanco and Jung Ho Kang, who turned too far around third base for the final out of the ninth inning -- have actually been the Pirates' best baserunners.
According to Fangraphs.com, Polanco and Kang have added more value on the bases than anyone on the team. Polanco has been worth 2.9 runs above average, while Kang has been worth 1.8 runs above average.
As a team, the Pirates have graded out well in terms of stolen-base percentage and extra bases taken. But Hurdle has frequently stressed the Pirates' need to improve their baserunning as a whole, specifically their awareness on plays like Polanco's slide into third Friday night.
"There's a number of different reasons you can make mistakes on the bases," Hurdle said. "We've actually run the bases much more efficiently in some areas, so I don't want to leave the impression that we're bad all over, because we're not.
"We've complicated things for ourselves here recently. It's no more difficult than just slowing the game down, simplifying things, making sure you know where the runner is in front of you."