Pittsburgh put its manager search on hold until after the World Series in order to interview Texas hitting coach Clint Hurdle, and now Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the Pirates are down to Hurdle and in-house candidate Jeff Banister as the finalists for the job.
Banister has spent 25 years in the Pirates’ organization, including eight years as minor league coordinator before becoming John Russell’s bench coach in August. Russell was fired last month.
Hurdle, who managed the Rockies from 2002 to mid-2008, is considered the favorite for the job. He took Colorado to the World Series in 2007, but that was Hurdle’s lone winning season and he finished with an overall record of 534-625 for a .461 winning percentage.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.