McCutchen's homer keys Pirates' rally over Cubs
CHICAGO — Put Andrew McCutchen in Wrigley Field, and he can play forever.
McCutchen's .315 batting average at the Friendly Confines is second best among active big leaguers. Nobody has a higher on-base percentage there.
With the Pirates trailing the Chicago Cubs by one run in the seventh inning Saturday, McCutchen went to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second.
Cue the "Field of Dreams" theme music.
McCutchen fell behind 0-2 against reliever Pedro Strop, but a pair of errant sliders evened the count.
Sliders have bedeviled McCutchen this season. His 29.5 percent strike rate on sliders is higher than any other pitch.
"They can throw 'em as much as they want, but the good hitters are able to adjust," McCutchen said. "I made a bad swing on one, made an adjustment. He threw two good ones in the dirt, and I spit on those."
Strop threw another slider. McCutchen murdered it.
"He left one up, and I was able to do it," McCutchen said. "That's what good hitters do."
McCutchen's shot into the left-field bleachers propelled the Pirates to an 8-7 comeback victory against the Cubs.
"This guy (Strop) had him maybe where he thought he wanted him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Andrew put a pretty swing on it."
The ball veered a bit toward the foul pole, but there was never any doubt it was long enough to get out.
"When he hit it, I jumped over the fence (in front of the dugout)," Josh Harrison said. "Everybody got pretty excited. The crowd went pretty silent."
It was McCutchen's 177th career home run, which moved him ahead of Barry Bonds into fourth place on the Pirates' all-time list. Roberto Clemente is third with 240 homers.
It also was the first home run McCutchen hit on MLB's Jackie Robinson Day.
"My numbers aren't that great on Jackie Robinson Day," McCutchen said. "Maybe I put a little added pressure on myself, just because. It was great to be able to do that the way I did it. It was awesome. It means a lot and is something I'm going to remember, definitely."
With a 24 mph wind blowing out to center field, the Pirates hit four home runs.
"You have quite the advantage playing in this ballpark when the wind is howling out like that," McCutchen said.
Two of the five hits allowed by Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta were solo homers. Francisco Cervelli went deep in the second inning, and Starling Marte homered in the sixth.
The Pirates got two runs, including Harrison's solo shot, off reliever Brian Duensing in the seventh.
Kris Bryant homered in the ninth off closer Tony Watson, who hung on for his fourth save.
The Cubs had early success against rookie Tyler Glasnow and led 6-2 after three innings.
"This ballpark is one of the roughest ones," Harrison said. "They've got some rude fans. Our job is to (block) that out. (Glasnow) did a good job of settling down, keeping us where we needed to be and allowed our bats to wake up."
Last Monday, Glasnow lasted just 12⁄3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds and yielded five runs on four hits and five walks.
Against the Cubs, Glasnow showed flashes of progress. Yet, there remains much work to be done.
Glasnow worked five innings and gave up six runs (four earned) on six hits. The rookie right-hander issued two walks, both coming in the fifth, and hit a batter.
The Cubs scored four runs in the first, including a titanic two-run homer by Bryant. Glasnow yielded two runs on two hits over the next four innings.
"It was something we definitely can build on," Hurdle said. "After he got hit hard twice (in the first inning), I think it caught his attention because he was a different cat from that point on."
Using a revamped delivery, Glasnow got seven strikeouts. His changeup and curveball played much better than in his first outing.
"I got into that 'do whatever is necessary' mode," Glasnow said. "It was nice to feel that again. Having that changeup in there made (the fastball) more effective. Keeping guys off balance so they couldn't just sit on my fastball really helped me."
Pitch efficiency was a problem. Glasnow threw 99 pitches, only 55 of them for strikes. Of the first 11 batters Glasnow faced, three saw first-pitch strikes. Not coincidentally, all three struck out.
The stuff is there, it seems. Glasnow just needs to harness it.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.