Bucs' biggest crowd of year cheers McCutchen
PITTSBURGH — The men Andrew McCutchen used to call his teammates wanted to make sure he would have his moment. So when McCutchen, now with the San Francisco Giants, stepped out of the batter’s box on Friday night to acknowledge the standing ovation at PNC Park in his first game back since being traded in January, the Pittsburgh Pirates clapped right along.
Then McCutchen put his helmet on, dug in and went back to work. The Pirates did, too. Six pitches later McCutchen was headed back to the dugout after striking out looking, and Pittsburgh set about showcasing that the franchise remains very much alive, even without the player most vital to its turnaround.
“We can’t just dwell on the past and wish he was here the whole time,” Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “It’s time to move on.”
That’s easier to do when you’re hitting the ball all over the yard.
McCutchen, who played his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh before being shipped to the Giants four months ago, let the outpouring from the largest crowd to watch a Pirates home game this season pour over him when he came to bat in the first inning. He finished 1-for-5 with a double and threw out Pittsburgh’s Colin Moran at home to end the sixth inning while being cheered whenever he came to bat or made a play in the field.
“I don’t think there was anything normal about it,” McCutchen said about the response. “You try to make it as normal as possible, but you’re playing against guys you played with for a long time, and that’s not normal. I tried my best not to think about it, but I think they had the advantage over me. I was trying to ride through it. I did my best.”
Steven Brault (3-1) picked up the win in relief after Pittsburgh starter Jameson Taillon left after three innings with a laceration on his right hand. Mercer went 3-for-4 and scored twice for the Pirates, who have won five of six games.
San Francisco rookie Andrew Suarez (1-2) lasted just four innings in his fourth career start, giving up five runs on seven hits, including home runs to Marte in the first and Osuna in the fourth. Austin Jackson‘s two-run double off Brault in the fourth briefly tied the game at 2, but Suarez struggled in the bottom of the inning as the Giants dropped their fifth straight.
“[The key] is starting pitching,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s how you get on a roll, good starting pitching. If you’re struggling, it’s usually because your starters are in a little rut, and that’s what’s happening with us right now.”
The Giants went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and struck out 14 times. San Francisco has fanned 68 times during its five-game slide.
“We’re having a hard time making contact or even getting a productive out,” Bochy said. “That’s why we have had five ugly losses. We’re not doing anything offensively, the [opposing] pitchers are on top of their games, and that’s why we’re in the little streak that we’re on right now.”
Pittsburgh is off to a solid start in the competitive NL Central despite a roster makeover that included sending McCutchen — the 2013 NL MVP — west in exchange for reliever Kyle Crick, outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds and international bonus slot money.
General manager Neal Huntington described the decision to trade McCutchen as tough but necessary.
Marte, McCutchen’s replacement in center, drilled a two-run shot off Suarez in the first. Osuna added a pinch-hit homer to left field in the fifth to put the Pirates up 5-2, and Pittsburgh poured it on from there.
“I answered a lot of questions over the winter about where the power is going to come from,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “The power is coming from a lot of different places.”
Attendance was announced at 34,720, and many fans showed their appreciation for McCutchen by wearing his No. 22 jersey.
Giants: OF Mac Williamson (concussion) remains out indefinitely. Bochy said it will be at least another week before Williamson is cleared to exit the concussion protocol program. Williamson hasn’t played since he was injured on April 24. … Bochy said OF Hunter Pence‘s strained right thumb is “doing better.”
Giants: Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 6.62 ERA) will try to bounce back Saturday after getting drilled in an 11-0 loss to Philadelphia last Monday. Samardzija is 6-4 with a 2.80 ERA in his career against Pittsburgh.
Pirates: Chad Kuhl (4-2, 4.12) is 3-1 in his last four starts and tied a career high with eight strikeouts in a victory over Milwaukee last Sunday.