Hurdle likes stacked top of Pirates' order

Hurdle likes stacked top of Pirates' order

Hurdle likes stacked top of Pirates' order
MIAMI -- The Pirates' offense is not performing the way Clint Hurdle would like it.

The manager is not pleased with the fact that his team has a .222 batting average -- second worst in the National League. The Bucs' 97 runs scored are the lowest in the Majors, and Hurdle is looking for ways to improve his team's offensive production.

"We've just got to find a way to be more consistent on offense," Hurdle said. "We are pitching our backsides off and playing solid defense. It's time for the offense to go out there and make a move forward."

Hurdle has moved Neil Walker ahead of Andrew McCutchen and dropped Alex Presley down in the order with the hope that stacking the top of the order will lead to more consistent offensive production.

"That's why we have Walker back in the two spot," Hurdle said. "We've had some success with Neil up there. We'll drop Presley down, and maybe that will take a load off him and he can just swing the bat and not worry about anything other than seeing the ball and putting the barrel on it."

Hurdle has hit Walker fourth or fifth for most of the year to provide protection for McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, but he has decided the Pirates would benefit more from having Walker's talents in front of their best and most powerful hitter.

"I just like Walker in front rather than behind Pedro," Hurdle said. "We talk a lot about protection in the lineup, but what I've seen in the game the last five years is that pitchers go at hitters the way they go. Yes, there is some discussion about maybe the guy behind would be better, but there are only a handful of guys in this game that get pitched around. There are 30 teams, and there might be five guys that you actually say, 'No. Four wide. Let's just go.'

"You saw it yesterday [against the Astros] in a situation where a left-hander was brought in to face Pedro. One swing of the bat can win the game, and I've got a pitcher that's going to hit next, regardless of who it is and they went at Pedro. They were able to put him out, but that's a gamble that I'm not sure I would've taken in our dugout. I'm not second-guessing their manager, because it worked out, but I just don't see much of that, so I'm going to leave Walker up top, followed by 'Cutch, followed by Alvarez."

Another wrinkle Hurdle threw into Monday's lineup included Casey McGehee playing first base instead of Garrett Jones. The Pirates faced a right-hander in Anibal Sanchez, which would suggest that the left-handed-hitting Jones would typically get the start, but Hurdle went with a gut feeling and started the right-handed-hitting McGehee instead.

"We've got a bunch of guys we're trying to help find their way back," Hurdle said. "It's a short sample size. They've both seen Sanchez once. It's a faster infield. It's just my gut tonight to give Casey the start. We've got Jones available for whatever the game may bring us."

Whether the move to start McGehee over Jones works or not, Hurdle knows that it will be important to get both players hitting soon.

"Casey and Jones both can add to this offense," Hurdle said. "I've got to find a way to get them reignited. They're both kind of in the same place. They both had better years two years ago and both had off years last year. They've both shown signs this year, but they've also been inconsistent."