Pirates leaning toward using Gerrit Cole as playoff reliever

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Gerrit Cole tossed seven shutout innings last night as the Pirates clinched their first winning season since 1992–when he was two years old–but the standout rookie may not be starting any playoff games.

According to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, manager Clint Hurdle “indicated Cole’s postseason role would be in the bullpen.”

Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett have been the Pirates’ two best starters all season, but the choice for No. 3 starter is an interesting one. Wandy Rodriguez likely would have been the pick, but he’s hurt. Jeff Locke made the All-Star team, but has fallen apart since. Charlie Morton has been very good since coming off the disabled list. And then there’s Cole, who has a 3.48 ERA in 16 starts and has allowed more than three runs just twice.

Of course, if the Pirates don’t win the NL Central crown they’ll have to win the Wild Card play-in game or their choice for No. 3 starter will be moot.

Yasmani Grandal played himself out of NLCS Game 4

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Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has not had a good postseason. Entering Monday night’s NLCS Game 3, he was batting .111/.238/.278 in 21 trips to the plate across the NLDS and the first two games of the NLCS.

Defense has also been an issue for Grandal. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Grandal was on the hook for two passed balls. In the sixth inning of Game 3 Monday night, he couldn’t corral a curve in the dirt, which allowed Travis Shaw to score the Brewers’ second run of the night. Starter Walker Buehler was charged with a wild pitch. In the eighth, with Ryan Braun on first base and Shaw at the plate, Grandal again couldn’t corral a pitch in the dirt, allowing Braun to move to second base. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Alex Wood was able to escape the inning with no damage.

Manager Dave Roberts said that Austin Barnes, not Grandal, will start behind the plate for Game 4 on Tuesday night, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. That comes as no surprise at all. When Grandal struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Dodger fans regaled him with boos.

Barnes will be an upgrade defensively, but he’s lacking with the bat. He had an 0-for-3 performance in Game 2, though with an RBI, bringing his career slash line in the playoffs to .200/.281/.300 across 57 plate appearances. During the regular season, his career 100 adjusted OPS is a fair bit behind Grandal’s 115. Roberts is trading offense for defense in Game 4. Rich Hill will get the start opposite the Brewers’ Gio González.