ST. LOUIS -- Pirates fans were somewhat irritated Friday night when three members of the team drew ejections during a contentious game in which Bucs were hit by pitches three times -- while no Cardinals were removed by the umpiring crew.
But what really outraged people in Pittsburgh was something else: Center fielder Andrew McCutchen's getting removed from the game by Clint Hurdle as part of a fifth-inning double-switch. The outcry goes along these lines: You don't remove one of baseball's best players in the middle of what seemed like a still-manageable 5-0 game.
"Wait," you're asking, "wasn't Hurdle one of the Bucs ejected, long before that double-switch?"
Yes, but Hurdle acknowledged Saturday afternoon that he had sent word to replacement skipper Jeff Banister approving of and encouraging the move.
"It's the only time that I've ever been thrown out of a game that I shared my thoughts [with the replacement manager]," Hurdle said. "I wanted to make sure we did the best thing for the team. To some watching, it was a violation. But if you think it through, it makes the most sense."
McCutchen made the final out in the top of the fifth and was pulled when Jared Hughes entered in the bottom of the inning two batters after Carlos Beltran's second homer of the game, off Jeanmar Gomez, had upped St. Louis' lead to 5-0. Starling Marte shifted from left to center, and Jose Tabata entered and took the pitcher's spot in the lineup.
"We put ourselves in the best position to get through that game with the pitching we had available," said Hurdle, referring to the bind caused by starter Jonathan Sanchez's ejection with none out in the first. "McCutchen probably understood better than anyone; he got it."
McCutchen had already gone 0-for-3, stranding four baserunners and extending to 1-for-20 an ongoing lull that has dropped his average to .226.
"What if we get something going and have a couple men on base?" said Hurdle, paraphrasing critics of the move. "Well, you know what? Three times, Andrew had already been up, and obviously this wasn't his best week swinging the bat."
Sanchez given six-game suspension
ST. LOUIS -- Jonathan Sanchez was in the Pirates' bullpen for Saturday afternoon's game. But he was deeper in Major League Baseball's doghouse.
Sanchez was given a six-game suspension, along with an unspecified fine, after having been adjudged by Joe Torre, MLB vice-president of baseball operations, of "intentionally throwing a pitch" and hitting the Cardinals' Allen Craig in the first inning of Friday night's game.
Sanchez has chosen to appeal the discipline, which will be held in abeyance during that process, and was available to work in relief Saturday against the Redbirds.
Torre rendered the swift decision following a morning phone conversation with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
"There's a certain protocol in these situations," Hurdle had said of his talk with Torre, whom he lauded as the ideal arbiter in such cases. "We're fortunate to have Joe in this position. He has worn the managerial shoe, but that doesn't mean he will always take the manager's side, because he's in a different situation now."
Sanchez was immediately ejected by plate umpire Tim Timmons after his first pitch against Craig struck Craig high on the left shoulder. Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran had begun the game with home runs, and Matt Holliday's sharp single to center had led to Craig.
Timmons told Sanchez his intent "was obvious" in waving him off the field. Hurdle was also ejected during the ensuing argument, and his batting coach, Jay Bell, drew Timmons' thumb in the fifth inning for jawing about Starling Marte's having gotten hit for the second time by the Cardinals' Lance Lynn.
Despite warnings to both benches having been issued in the wake of Sanchez's ejection, neither pitch to Marte nor a later one by reliever Mitchell Boggs that clipped Gaby Sanchez led to any repercussions.
"I think we've all seen those instances where they throw that warning out ... and somebody glances somebody and now they feel obligated to throw them out when it's obvious they weren't trying to hit anybody," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Saturday. "It puts a lot more judgment on the umpires, but hopefully they use their good judgment and can try to follow what intent is."
"At the end of the day," Hurdle said, "the only person who knows what happened is Jonathan. I know this about Jonathan: He knows he has to pitch well to keep his spot, and anything that takes away from that isn't productive."
Snider scratched Saturday vs. Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Travis Snider was a late scratch from the Pirates' lineup for Saturday afternoon's game because of what a club official described as discomfort on his right side.
"Just felt it tighten a little after my last couple of swings," Snider said of his pregame time in the batting cage. "Just a matter of listening to your body and being extra careful with those rotational muscles. So we just wanted to be cautious, take a break, let the trainers help me so I can be ready to get back out there soon."
Jose Tabata replaced Snider in right field and as the No. 2 hitter in the order against St. Louis righty Jake Westbrook.
Snider was undergoing treatment as the game began, and he was to be re-evaluated as the afternoon progressed.
The outfielder had been one of the Pirates' hottest hitters during a span in which the Bucs had won 10 of 14 games entering Saturday. Snider was batting .333 in that stretch, and he had scored nine runs.
"After he hit, he came in here [the clubhouse] to change, and it started cramping on him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It got to the point it was problematic, so we decided to keep him out."
Walker faces uncertain timetable with hand
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates know they will be without the services of Neil Walker for at least the rest of this road stretch, which has four games remaining following Saturday afternoon's game against the Cardinals.
What they need to determine is whether Walker's absence with a six-stitch gash in the knuckle of his right index finger figures to be long enough to warrant his placement on the 15-day disabled list.
Soon after his injury Friday night -- sustained while trying to break up a double play and being stepped on by St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma -- Walker said doctors expected the stitches to be removed in six to seven days.
That prognosis coincides with one of the "two different time frames I've heard, one from our team and one from somebody else," manager Clint Hurdle said.
"We'll take it day to day and initially try to play without DL-ing him," Hurdle added, "and if it becomes problematic for the roster, we may have to go in a different direction."
It may have become more problematic a couple of hours later, exclusive of Walker's condition: Right-fielder Travis Snider was scratched from Saturday's lineup with left-side discomfort. If that were to become a lingering issue -- Snider was being treated prior to re-evaluation -- it would further dilute the bench and necessitate roster moves.
Brandon Inge will primarily take Walker's spot at second base and be occasionally spelled by the other veteran infielder, John McDonald.
• Dept. of Small Sample Size, but still interesting given that last year's Pirates were last on both sides of the stolen-base coin: Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen (with six steals each) were tied for second in the NL entering Saturday's game, and catcher Russell Martin was also tied for second having thrown out five runners.
• Pirates relievers' success at stranding inherited runners -- 81.5 percent, on 22 of 27 -- topped the NL through Friday's games.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.