Clint Hurdle is making Dusty Baker’s life easier

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The Pirates’ No. 4 hitter tonight, Garrett Jones, has hit .213/.254/.344 against lefties this season.

The Pirates’ No. 5 hitter tonight, Pedro Alvarez, has hit .210/277/.387 against lefties this season.

So, it was pretty much a no-brainer that Sean Marshall was coming in to face both with a man on first and one out and the Reds up by one in the eighth inning tonight. And it was no surprise that Jones popped out and Alvarez struck out in a game the Pirates went on to lose 5-3.

While the Pirates were in the thick of the NL wild card race for much of the summer, it’s always been fairly clear that they were at least a year away. For that reason, it makes sense to let Alvarez take those at-bats against tough left-handers late in games.

But that doesn’t mean Hurdle has to make it so easy. He could have broken up his two left-handers and at least given Dusty Baker a bit more to think about.

Alvarez pretty obviously wasn’t up to the task while facing Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning Monday, and while I didn’t see the at-bat tonight (and MLB.tv is being uppity and not letting me check it out), I’m guessing his duel against Marshall wasn’t much closer.

The Pirates have now lost five games in a row. They’re 2-8 for the month, leaving them 72-69 for the year. A .sub-.500 finish remains a possibility, though with four games against the Cubs and three versus Houston on the docket, they should still have a decent finish in them.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.