9/21/2013 11:41 P.M. ET
Grilli reprises role, earns first save since July
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- If the opportunity arises, manager Clint Hurdle said, Jason Grilli will reclaim his job as closer for the Pirates' critical meeting with the Reds on Saturday night.
The opportunity did arise, and Grilli came on in the ninth to earn his first save since July 21 during the Pirates' 4-2 win over the Reds. Grilli gave up a leadoff single to Ryan Ludwick, erased him with a double play by Jay Bruce and sealed the victory with a groundout from Zack Cozart.
"Watching these guys do it for so long made me want to come back and do it with them," Grilli said. "It's what you want, to play meaningful games at the end of the year. This is what you dream about when growing up in the backyard, and what you talk about in Spring Training."
Mark Melancon, involved in a second ninth-inning meltdown in three days in the Bucs' 6-5 loss in 10 innings to Cincinnati on Friday, will resume his earlier setup duties.
Their roles have reverted to what they had been prior to Grilli's July 22 forearm injury -- at least, temporarily.
"I talked to Mark and Jason. If there's a save opportunity, Jason gets it tonight," Hurdle said earlier Saturday. "I'm approaching it day by day."
Grilli was leading the National League in saves with 30 when he was injured. Melancon, a former closer with the Astros, stepped into his shoes and had converted 16 of 18 save opportunities until the two consecutive blown saves.
"I talked to him about the sequence of events, to separate the facts from his feelings," Hurdle said. "It's not like balls are ringing in the gaps or going to the walls against him. They're finding grass. It's time not to reinvent, not to refine. He's had a great deal of success until the last 72 hours."
Another new bullpen wrinkle was the availability of left-hander Justin Wilson, who had not pitched since Sept. 13, getting some planned rest. But Wilson entered in the eighth inning of Saturday's game to face Joey Votto with a runner on first and one out with the Pirates holding a two-run lead, and forced the Reds star to ground into a huge inning-ending double play.
Hurdle disagrees with warnings policy after HBP
PITTSBURGH -- Fair or foul, safe or out -- those are baseball's concrete decisions. Everything else is pretty much a judgment call, and most infuriating among them is determining a pitcher's intent and how to deal with the consequences.
That certainly is one ambiguity that sends Pirates manager Clint Hurdle up a wall -- and on Friday night it sent him to an early shower after he questioned plate umpire Mark Carlson's decision to warn both benches after Sam LeCure had plunked Andrew McCutchen with an eighth-inning fastball.
"The guy that does wrong gets a Mulligan, then nobody else can play. Everybody else gets shut down," Hurdle said Saturday, referring to the automatic ejections following warnings. "At the end of the day, I don't agree with the policy."
Hurdle was even less understanding after learning that the umpiring crew working this series had been cautioned in advance by MLB about possible hostilities. So why not issue the warnings pregame, something neither team would have liked but at least would have been equitable, rather than wait until Cincinnati got in one lick?
By the time LeCure approached first base "to apologize," according to McCutchen, Carlson's warnings had been out of the bag. LeCure's gesture did further convince McCutchen the pitch had been accidental.
"Yeah, there was intent," McCutchen said, "he intended to throw inside. He wasn't trying to hit me. Getting hit [stinks], and hurts. I happen to be the guy who gets hit. I think they just have a game plan, to throw inside -- and, if they miss, miss inside, not over the plate. Because they know what's going to happen if they miss there -- and that's what I'm looking forward to."
Any Pirates retaliation would be out of the question should the umpires issue warnings even before the start of the teams' next game.
Otherwise ... Hurdle took a "we'll see" approach. McCutchen was more definitive about dismissing the get-even factor.
"That's not the type of team we are," McCutchen said. "We're not going to try to retaliate, just try to win a game. It's not like you can just hit someone and get away with it; you may have to pay for it in a big way -- maybe the next guy hits a home run. It's not in our game plan."
• Next Saturday's Pirates-Reds game at Great American Ball Park has been tabbed for the national telecast by FOX, resulting in the first pitch being moved to 1:05 p.m. ET from the originally scheduled 4:10 p.m.
• Francisco Liriano became the 13th pitcher in history with at least 1,000 strikeouts and more strikeouts than innings pitched when he ended Friday night's game with 1,001 K's in 996 innings.
First number, last word
1.202: Neil Walker's lifetime OPS (on-base average plus slugging percentage) with the bases loaded; Alex Rodriguez, who on Friday broke Lou Gehrig's career record with his 24th grand slam, has a lifetime OPS of 1.105 with the bases loaded.
"We've been a no-excuse club, and he's part of that. A play didn't get made last night, and it didn't help our cause. He's gotta fight through this, ensure your teammates that you can do that, and accept the responsibility that goes with it, to buy some street cred with the team." -- Hurdle on shortstop Jordy Mercer, whose ninth-inning throwing error Friday night enabled the tying rally in the Reds' 6-5 win in 10 innings.
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.