You know how some players and coaches are grumps with the media and don’t say a whole lot to reporters? A lot of times that’s because they are protecting valuable information. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates should have taken that approach prior to Game 5 of the NLDS.
Prior to the decisive Game 5 that the Pirates lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1, a few Pittsburgh hitters revealed part of their game plan for facing Cards starter Adam Wainwright. They said that they swung at too many of his breaking balls in a Game 1 loss to him, so they were planning to lay off of it this time.
After throwing a complete game for the win Wednesday, Wainwright said in his postgame interview with TBS that he knew how to attack the Pirates hitters because his opponents divulged their game plan.
“They said in the media that they were going to try to not swing at any of my breaking stuff,” Wainwright said with a smile. “I guess I had to go out there and prove I could throw it for strikes.”
Wainwright did just that — he threw 96 pitches, 66 of which were strikes. According to analysis from Joe Lucia of The Outside corner, Wainwright threw 48 curves in Game 5 compared to 33 in Game 1. He got five outs in play on it both games, but knowing that the Pirates would try laying off of it more, he used his curve more in Game 5. Baseball Tonight researcher Justin Havens says the 48 curveballs in Game 5 were the most Wainwright had thrown in a start in his last five years.
So how did he know what the Pirates’ approach would be? Just take a look at these comments from some of Pittsburgh’s hitters made prior to Game 5.
“I think the difference in (Game 1) was we had a lot of swings and misses out of the zone on the curveball,” center fielder Andrew McCutchen said Tuesday, via Triblive.com. “If we just let those go, it could have been a different ballgame. That was a difference maker for his outing.”
Marlon Byrd indicated he would lay off Wainwright’s awesome bender, too.
“It’s not a pitch to hit. It’s a pitch he wants to get swings on,” Byrd said. “He’s unbelievable at locating it, at throwing it short behind the plate. … You don’t see spin. That’s what makes him so good. The breaking ball is so tight.”
Manager Clint Hurdle indicated he was aware he could be divulging key information, but he proceeded to anyway.
“What I’d like to do is share my game plan with you, so you can get it out there before Wainwright takes the mound,” Hurdle said via MLB.com. “I don’t know how beneficial that might be for us. We have got some things we might try. We have to get pitches to hit, we have to lay off the breaking ball down, and then we’ll see what we can draw up in the dirt moving forward.”
And what’s the difference between Wainwright and the Pirates? He was able to give the media a quote they could print without revealing any of his plans.
“I couldn’t tell you that, could I?” the veteran said. “You’ll just have to wait and see. That seems like a scouting report. I’ll go out and I’ll just try to execute my game plan, which I can not reveal on this set. We will be very prepared. Yadi [catcher Yadier Molina] and I, and the coaching staff, we’ll put together a good plan and we’ll go from there.”
I guess we could chalk this up to rookie mistakes by the Pirates. What do you expect from a team that was in the postseason for the first time since 1992? They had a great season, but they just learned the hard way that they need to give the media quotes without divulging important information.
Ironically, the last out of the Pirates’ season came when Pedro Alvarez whiffed on a curveball that was out of the zone: