Kovacevic: Even when it goes right, it’s wrong


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Josh Bell reacts after a strikeout Saturday night in St. Louis. - AP

ST. LOUIS -- Fire everyone.

Yeah, the Pirates lost yet again, 3-1 to the Cardinals on this Saturday night, extending this latest streak to seven games, the record since the All-Star break to 4-23 and the overall record to a season-worst 20 games under .500 at 48-68. And digging anew through the history books, this is the franchise's second-worst 27-game stretch in Major League Baseball's modern era, meaning from 1900 onward. The only one worse was a 3-24 in 1952.

I'll say it again: Fire everyone. The very most Bob Nutting could do is sell. The very least he could and should do is clear out the front office. All of them. Throw their furniture out, too. And then, rehire them, only to fire them again in the same act, just to make double-damned-sure it sticks.

OK, obligatory prequel out of the way ...

This game, like the one the previous night, was as airtight as could be expected these days, tied at 1-1 until the bottom of the sixth. Which is precisely when a good team wins a game and one that's hitting historic lows does what the visitors wound up doing.

It opened with promise, Bryan Reynolds turning in this terrific throw to nail fleet-footed Dexter Fowler at second:

That kid's good at everything. It's almost as if he'd been drafted and developed through some other team's system, huh?

He's humble, too. When I asked about the odd technique to that throw -- like a shortstop in the hole -- he credited recently traded Corey Dickerson.

"It's something I learned from Corey, and he and I would work on it together before games," Reynolds told me. "It's not a play you see too often, but the more you prepare, the more you're ready for something like that."

Wonderful stuff.

Followed, somehow naturally, by this three-car crash-and-burn with Joe Musgrove's next batter, Tommy Edman:

In Little League, they call that a home run. In the majors, everything they call that is unprintable.

Edman smacks what should have been a double to the fence in center, Starling Marte scoops it up and sends it to Kevin Newman, the correct cutoff man, efficiently enough that Edman settles for second.

Play over, right?

Not for Newman. He whirls toward third base and throws. Even with Adam Frazier right in his face with both arms raised and shouting, as I'd later learn, "No! No! No!" Even with Edman not only stopping at second but also skipping back to touch the bag with his right spike.

The throw, needless to say, never needed to be made. He could've eaten the ball or, if he'd felt the slightest concern over Edman, he could've run the ball back into the infield himself.

Yeah, I asked:

He made fair points: "Edman's a good runner. Once the ball got to the wall, I thought there might be a play at third. Frazier was telling me what to do, but I couldn't hear him over the crowd noise. So I turned to third ... and the throw came up short."

One thing I've learned about Newman: He's not an excuse-maker. Don't read him that way. It'd be dead wrong.

But he blew it, and he knew it, both with the decision and the execution.

And, as Clint Hurdle would call out, "There were probably three disconnects on the play." Which is supported by another, slower look:

The throw's low, but Colin Moran's got to position himself in front of that ball like a soldier on a hand grenade.

"I probably just didn't block it well enough," Moran said.

I asked if maybe it had taken an unexpected turn.

"I didn't block it well enough."

Surprised to see a throw?

"I've got to get in front of it."

OK, then. But there was a third point: Musgrove, a superior athlete who takes pride in all facets, initially had moved toward backing up a potential throw ... then paused at the third base line. So once the ball got by Moran and rolled into the Pirates' dugout -- formally handing Edman home plate and, presumably, a stop at the ice cream parlor -- Musgrove was in no position to stop it.

"I stopped at the foul line when I saw him pull up," Musgrove said, referring to Edman at second. "If the throw goes to third -- that's kind of the last thing I expect there -- I need to be backing up third base. There's no excuse for it. I've got nowhere else to be but there. That's my job."

This might never end.

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