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Pirates off to good start, in large part because of Hurdle

April 5, 2011 - Cory Giger
I have never sugarcoated my feelings about John Russell's tenure as Pirates manager. He was flat out dreadful, and worst of all, he looked like he never even cared what happened to his team. I'm sure he actually did care a lot, but he didn't bother showing it.

(I also do a mean Russell impression where I whisper everything and show no emotion whatsoever, which is basically what he did with the Bucs for three years.)

It's taken Clint Hurdle all of four games to show that he is so vastly superior to Russell that it's not even funny.

It's not just the demeanor and take-charge attitude, either. All of that is a given. Heck, almost any living person could show more emotion than Russell ever did.

In the eighth inning of Monday night's game against the Cardinals, Hurdle made an excellent decision to bring in closer Joel Hanrahan with two outs and the game on the line.

Evan Meek was ineffective, allowing the Cardinals to pull within 4-2, and Mike Crotta allowed one of the runners he inherited from Meek to score to make it 4-3.

Hurdle then summoned Hanrahan with two outs, and he got out of the jam by striking out Yadier Molina. Hanrahan followed with a perfect ninth to save the 4-3 win.

It's not unheard of for a manager to bring in a closer in the eighth inning, but the Pirates have rarely done it, and to do so this early in the season is unusual.

With that move, Hurdle showed his players that he's not afraid to do some strange things that actually work -- unlike Russell hitting the pitcher eighth last year -- and he showed the Pirates' long-suffering fans that he can make a tough decision and have it pay off.

In that same situation, Russell probably would have stayed with the struggling Meek until he had given up the lead or even fallen behind. That's just one of many reasons he was a terrible manager for the Pirates.

The Buccos are 3-1, and they would be 4-0 had Meek not blown a lead against the Cubs in the second game. It's exactly the kind of start the young team needed.

And Hurdle is exactly the kind of manager it needed after how ridiculously bad Russell was the past few years.

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