After winning the first two games of their three-game series with the Rangers, the Pirates come into Wednesday just one game back of the Cardinals in the NL Central. That's one game back with 18 games left to play. Considering their place in the standings, it is rather odd to see manager Clint Hurdle roll out this lineup on Wednesday:
Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 11, 2013
This seems like a questionable decision at best and really, really bad one at worst. Yes, McCutchen did start each of the team's last 29 games (in center field), but Pittsburgh had a scheduled off-day just last Thursday. Furthermore, their next eight games are against the lowly Cubs and Padres. Wouldn't it be better to sit him against one of those teams?
There's nothing easier than picking apart a manager's lineup decision. For all we know McCutchen is banged up and needs the day to deal with some nagging injury. That's probably the case, actually. It is worth noting Hurdle has been resting a lot of his regulars this last week, including Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. Russell Martin has been getting more days off as well, at least by catcher standards.
The Pirates have a comfortable eight-game lead on a playoff spot, so it's a foregone conclusion they'll be playing in October. I'm sure they would greatly prefer winning the division and bypassing the winner-take-all wild-card game, however. There's plenty of time to rest McCutchen once they lock themselves into a postseason spot. As long as they have a chance to catch the Cardinals, Hurdle should be running his MVP out there every single day.