Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle leans on the batting cage as he watches batting practice before Game 3 of a National League Division Baseball Series on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 in Pittsburgh , PA (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)The Associated Press
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter (13) is hit by a pitch as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin reaches for it in the third inning of Game 3 of a National League division baseball series on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)The Associated Press
Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin had a bit of trepidation before telling 18-game winner and 40-year-old All-Star Bartolo Colon he wasn't the choice to pitch the deciding Game 5 of the AL division series against Detroit on Thursday night.
As it turned out, Melvin had no reason to worry. Colon took the news in stride that rookie Sonny Gray would get the ball instead and face Justin Verlander again.
"First of all, imagine how difficult it was for me," Melvin said. "This guy has 18 wins and has been our ace and been as consistent as you could ever be. And he's an All-Star on top of it, 40-year-old veteran. He made it easy on me. He looked at me and said, 'OK, I just want to win.' He's a man of few words as it is, but it made the conversation difficult on me because he could have had a gripe, and I would not have been surprised if he did."
It's unclear how Melvin might use Colon, who allowed three runs in the first inning of a 3-2 loss in Game 1 last Friday.
"It's not like Bartolo pitched poorly, either," Melvin said. "Bartolo's done nothing not to warrant pitching in this game. It's just that Sonny pitched so well."
GROUNDS CREW: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has a group of four confidants he calls a "Mount Rushmore" that help him keep his ego in check.
Hurdle called his father "my go-to guy," and likes to bounce things off his wife, Karla "because there is no testosterone in her answers from that perspective."
"It's not technical, it's not tactical," Hurdle said. "But I share everything with her."
The other two are friends Scott Whittaker of Gainesville, Fla., and Rod Olson, who is in the Pirates organization.
"I've got four people in my life I can rely upon 24/7 that will speak the truth to me, and let me know if they think I'm out of line or heading down the wrong direction or getting too big for my britches or anything that might come that way," Hurdle said.
STATUS QUO: In the NL division series finale between Pittsburgh and St. Louis, both managers stuck with what's worked all year long instead of tinkering with the top of the lineup card.
Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter was 1 for 15 in the series, while the Pirates' Starling Marte and Neil Walker were a combined 1 for 31 going into Game 5 on Wednesday night.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny has spoken to Carpenter about not trying to do too much, saying, "He needs to be Matt Carpenter. Nothing more, nothing less."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said both of his guys up top were due, and also thought making a change might send the wrong message.
"What do the two going up feel like? What do the two going down feel like?" Hurdle said. "Now you have half of your lineup that you've maybe just messed with."
Hurdle thought it best to leave players in their "comfort zone."
EAR PLUGS: While taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Game 4, Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha ignored a raucous crowd in Pittsburgh that chanted his name constantly.
"You definitely hear it," Wacha said. "I just kind of used it to my advantage a little bit, and it kind of gave me the adrenaline to go that late into the game. It worked out pretty well."
The 22-year-old right-hander was one out shy of a no-hitter against Washington in his last start of the regular season. He used his curve more in Game 4 against the Pirates, and knew he had another shot at a no-no early.
"Just like the start against Washington, you know if you give up a hit in the first or not," Wacha said. "I guess that's whenever I really noticed it."
PREOCCUPIED: St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher confessed he might be a bit distracted preparing for this week's game at Houston with the TV tuned to Pirates vs. Cardinals.
"I'll probably have it on," Fisher said Wednesday. "May move some meetings around a little bit."
Fisher was watching Monday when rookie Michael Wacha flirted with a no-hitter for the second straight start, showing up for his news conference and joking that if it went fast everybody could watch the bottom of the ninth inning.
He's been in contact with Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
"I texted him before they got started," Fisher said, "and wished them luck."