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.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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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.