CHICAGO -- When Clint Hurdle had left-hander Tony Watson begin Monday night's ninth inning before going to Jason Grilli for the final two outs of the Pirates' postseason-clinching win, the manager was not listening to his instincts.
He was listening to catcher Russell Martin.
Hurdle had a quandary after Starling Marte had homered with two outs in the ninth to give the Bucs a 2-1 lead. While the game was tied, Watson warmed up as the next man in; with the sudden lead, Grilli jumped up and began firing. But Watson had warmed up twice during the game.
Hurdle has two personal bullpen commandments: After warming up twice, you're burned for the day even without entering the game; and closers get "clean" innings.
"I kinda like to have a closer start an inning. I believe it makes them mentally focus when they start an inning," said Hurdle, who clearly could not obey both commandments in this situation.
As he is wont to, Hurdle was thinking this out loud on the bench when his catcher piped up.
"We can have Tony face Tony Rizzo," said Martin, referring to the left-handed hitter due to lead off for the Cubs.
"You know," Hurdle responded, "you have a little manager in you. That's a pretty good thought."
Watson came in to retire Rizzo on a grounder to third. Then Grilli entered and, with a dramatic finish, lodged his 32nd save. It was only his second partial-inning save, and the first was quite different: On May 10, Jose Contreras came in with a 7-1 lead in New York, and Grilli stepped in to get the final out after the Mets cut it to 7-3 and had a couple of men on.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.