PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have two shots at the one victory they need to win their first postseason series since capturing the World Series in 1979. Considering Carlos Beltran's October theatrics, it would be safe to assume that the Cardinals slugger won't be given a chance to sway the proceedings.
Yet, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle insists his decision isn't quite so clear-cut.
"It's a gut feeling at that time," Hurdle said on Monday afternoon, hours before the Pirates try to close out the Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
Just one day prior, Hurdle paid the price for going after Beltran, whose eighth-inning solo shot off former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon evened the score at 3-3. It would have gone down as a critical mistake had the Pirates not answered with two runs to win Game 3 and force the Cardinals to the brink of elimination.
"That's always a tough call for a manager," Hurdle said. "You believe you can get balls to spots that you can get some outs. Then when you don't, you are kind of like 'duh.' Would've, could've, should've. Beltran has been doing this for years as we're all aware."
Indeed, in the NLDS, Beltran is hitting .333 (4-for-12) with a double and two homers. Of the 13 runs the Cardinals have scored in the series, the former Mets star has knocked in six. It's simply an extension of what he's always done in October.
In 164 playoff plate appearances, Beltran is a .360/.463/.794 hitter with 16 homers and 31 RBIs. That compares quite well to Babe Ruth, who in 167 postseason plate appearances hit .326/.467/.744 with 15 homers and 33 RBIs.
"He's amazing," said Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen. "He's definitely a postseason killer."
Still, for Hurdle and the Pirates, Ruthian production does not equate to a strategy of duck and cover. The manager noted the presence of the man hitting behind Beltran, Matt Holliday, who is hitting .167 in the NLDS after putting together a regular season line of .300 with 24 homers and 94 RBIs.
"It still comes down to location a lot of times," Hurdle said, "but I do think the problem for me right now is that guy hitting behind Beltran is a good hitter as well. You have to pick which guy you want to go after and which guy you don't want to deal with."