Vance Worley Sensational in 1-0 Victory

Whether or not Charlie Morton will be able to pitch again this season remains to be seen. Even if he is, Vance Worley might have just made the decision easy for Clint Hurdle on who to put in the rotation.

Worley was sensational, throwing eight scoreless, four hit, five strikeout, and zero walk innings. Worley threw a mere 82 pitches, 63 for strikes, and was taken out solely for the purpose to pad the lead.  Russell Martin drove in the only run of the game, knocking in Andrew McCutchen with a line drive single to center, after McCutchen reached base by a single and advanced with a passed ball and wild pitch. It was one of only five hits the Pirates generated off of Wily Peralta, but evidently was enough due to Worley’s outing.

“He had everything working,” Clint Hurdle said. “Change of speed, location, backdoor cutters to left-handers, back foot breaking balls to right-handers. He pitched tight, he pitched away, he changed speeds. Excellent.”

Martin offered similar sentiments.

“It’s a combination of executing pitches and just being aggressive, and throwing the first punch out there every time. He wasn’t nitpicking. He just attacked the zone, threw a lot of strikes, and used his defense.”

After being taken out of the rotation for Morton in his last start, the rest over the last week was helpful in Worley reigning form.

Mechanically it was better. I got that start off and had some time to get my feet back under me,” Worley said.

Besides rest, Worley was able to mix his pitches effectively. He threw five pitches today — a two-seamer, a four seamer, slider, cutter, and knuckle curve — the first four for 17 plus times each. His effectiveness of his two seamer and cutter were particularly helpful, throwing the two seamer 24 times, 18 for strikes, and the cutter 18 times, 14 for strikes.

“Both of those pitches are working off the same angle and they both have late movement,” Martin said. “As a hitter, it makes it very difficult. When both of those pitches are sharp and they’re moving late, it’s tough.”

But it all would have been for nothing if not for Martin’s clutch hit.

“Right there I’m just trying to put the ball in play somehow,” Martin said.

Going into the game, Martin was hitting .376 with a 1.023 OPS with runners in scoring position. It’s a vast improvement from last year, when Martin hit .192 with a .572 OPS.

You look at his numbers from last year, his first checkmark on what he needed to improve on was hitting with runners in scoring position,” Hurdle said. “It’s all about his approach, his stubbornness in the plate, giving up big swings and trying to make hard contact with the pitches hit.”

It’s this approach at the plate –not trying to do too much — which has allowed Martin to make the stark improvement.

“A lot of guys want to hit the great button and they lose good. Russell’s just stayed so consistent,” Hurdle said.

With the win, the Pirates moved to 84-71, 4.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the Wild Card. The Pirates playoff odds are now 99.9 percent, while the Brewers dropped to 0.1 percent. Their magic number for the playoffs is three.

  • Not related specifically to Worley, but it does seem fortuitous that the final three series of year are vs the three worst offensive teams in MLB post ASG: 28 Brewers, 29 Reds, 30 Braves.

  • Having sat through the bottom 8th and top 9th in Section 119, the mood was decidedly downcast until Gomez did his Gomez thing. Soon as Lambo picked up a bat there was a collective “uh-oh”. And after Watson’s throwing error, the second-guessing was full bore negative about taking Worley out.

    Thank the gods of baseball that Gomez is a moron.

    Loved Blass’s dig on Gomez from Saturday night, “He’s the thinking man’s baseball player.” Said completely deadpan.

    • Yeah, Hurdle loves his bullpen almost to a fault. What was Worley’s pitch count – like 82?

  • That was a great performance (worley) in the pressure cooker that is september baseball for contending teams, get used to contending pirates fans, the bucs are going to be in contention for at least the next few years. ( then who knows? We shall see won’t we.)

  • Although I have been very critical of the FO for the Davis trade, the Morris giveaway,etc. I do have to give them credit where credit is due – the signings of Worley and Volquez have turned up roses. Where would the Pirates be without these two, who combined for 20 wins?

    Although no one likes to see guys get hurt, I think its a silver ling that Morton went back down and Worley was reinserted in the rotation. I much prefer a guy like Worley, who has a bulldog mentality and attacks hitters and the strike zone. There are so many feel good stories on this team, with contributions from so many unlikely sources – Harrison, Volquez, Worley, Hughes, and now even Holdzkum. A true team effort.

  • Curious what the Pirates do with the starting rotation if they should clinch a playoff spot in the next couple of days. Right now Jeff Locke would be scheduled to start the Wild Card game / first game of division series.

    • That WILL not happen!

      • It might just happen. If the Pirates are in the hunt for the division crown by the last game of the season do you pitch Cole against Cueto or do you give Cumpton, Jenmar Gomez, Sadler a spot start and move Cole to the potential wild card game?

        • Unless the Cards play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Pirates are likely to head into the series with CIN 2-3 games back. If that happens, you would see a guy like Cumpton take the spot of either Cole or Liriano. If we arent within a game of STL heading into the last 2 games against CIN, we wont roll with our best stuff. It wont happen with STL rather giving schedule. Sidenote, i dont move Cole to the WC. I move Cole to Sunday and Liriano to the WC game if its at home. Liriano at home is solid, even in this up and down year.

      • As it stands now, it would seem, unless the Cardinals fall flat on their faces, they’re going to win the division. I’m not ruling out the Pirates somehow gaining ground on St. Louis and winning the division. But that discussion is for another day. Hypothetically, if the Pirates are to play in the Wild-Card game, the question becomes who matches up as the starting pitcher the best against whoever they face, whether that be the Dodgers, the Giants or by some miracle, the Brewers. The thing the extra wild-card adds to the thought process is that most likely, whoever that person is will only get one start in the divisional round, if your team makes it past the wild card game. For example, last year, Liriano started the wild card game against the Reds and then he ended up starting game 3 of the division series against St. Louis. The way Liriano was pitching last year, I’m sure the Pirates would have preferred to get 2 starts out of Liriano against the Cardinals. As of now, if the Pirates do indeed face the Giants in the wild card game, who matches up well against their lineup?

        Preferably, the Pirates would win the division outright and they could set up their rotation however they like. The thing that the wild card game does, and I think this is actually a good thing for baseball is that it makes it a little more difficult for a wild card team to advance past the division series, since they’re handicapped by the fact that they cannot use their ace starter twice in the division series. Tim might know more about this than I do. But I believe there were some owners / GMs who didn’t like the fact that several wild card teams had made it to the World Series, let alone won the World Series:

        1997 Marlins – Won W.S.
        2000 Mets – Lost W.S.
        2002 Giants – Lost W.S.
        2002 Angels – Won W.S.
        2003 Marlins – Won W.S.
        2004 Red Sox – Won W.S.
        2005 Astros – Lost W.S.
        2006 Tigers – Lost W.S.
        2007 Rockies – Lost W.S.
        2011 Cardinals – Won W.S.

        • Daryl,

          The Cardinals would not have to fall flat on their face to end up being a wild card. Finishing with a 4-3, 3-4 record would be enough of a window for the Pirates to end up division winners.

          Of course the Pirates would have to finish the season on a tear (7-0, 6-1) for that to happen, but then again the Pirates have been on a tear (8-2 in last 10 games, 13-3 in last 16 games).

          Note that the Cubs have played the Cards tough this year (7-9 season record) so it is not inconceivable that the Cubs take 2 of 3 from the Cards at home. The Cards will probably win at least 2 in Arizona, so I figure that a 4-3, 3-4 finish for the Cards could easily happen.

          The tough part will be for the Pirates to finish strong on the road (at Atlanta, at Cinci) given the Pirates road woes this year. Atlanta has nothing left to play for (eliminated from playoffs today) and so they will be competitive but not what you saw from the Brewers today. Cinci will be tougher playing as a spoiler.

          “As of now, if the Pirates do indeed face the Giants in the wild card game, who matches up well against their lineup?”

          I believe the Pirates pitcher that matches up best against the Giants is Worley (3-1 record, mid 3.xx ERA in 5 starts) who just pitched today.

          • Who holds the tie-breaker if somehow the Pirates and the Cardinals are tied at the end of the regular season? Am I correct that the Cardinals hold the tie-breaker with an 11-8 record against the Pirates this season?

            • Daryl,

              The tie breaker for the Division winner is a one game playoff. The tie breaker you are thinking of is if the two wild card teams are tied – where is the wild card game played.

              If the Pirates and Cards end up tied, they play a one game playoff to determine the division winner.

      • Agreed. Odds are about the same for Locke pitching that game as the Brewers making the WC.

    • Travis Persinger
      September 21, 2014 7:12 pm

      That CANNOT happen…right? Lol

    • Liriano will start WC game. Especially if it’s in Pittsburgh.

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