Pirates' McCutchen delivers victory with ninth-inning homer
By Bob Cohn
Published: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, 10:30 p.m.
The Pirates got a temporary reprieve from extending their ignominious losing streak Saturday night and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1, at PNC Park on Andrew McCutchen's solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
McCutchen's 31st homer of the season off Jonathan Broxton broke a 1-1 tie and delayed, at least for the time being, the Pirates making it 20 consecutive losing seasons. The club remained at 81 losses with four games remaining.
“What Cutch just did was amazing,” reliever Jared Hughes said. “Everyone was thinking maybe he would win it with one swing. Then he goes out and does it.”
“It definitely felt good,” said McCutchen, who was slumping lately and whose last homer came Sept. 20 at home against Milwaukee. “ I was feeling better as the game went on. To get a hit in that fashion felt good.”
Said manager Clint Hurdle, “Andrew takes every at-bat personally. Maybe this will ignite him.”
There was even more good news for the Pirates: The sellout crowd of 38,623 put season attendance over 2 million for the first time since 2001, the year the ballpark opened.
Kyle McPherson, a 24-year-old right-hander who joined the Pirates in August from Triple-A Indianapolis, pitched six scoreless innings in the longest outing of his brief big league career. Establishing the fastball and mixing in breaking pitches, he allowed four hits, struck out five and walked one.
“I was able to keep them off-balance,” he said.
But he continued to receive no support and failed to get the decision. In his 142⁄3 innings as a starter, the Pirates have scored zero runs.
Joel Hanrahan (5-1) pitched a scoreless ninth and got the win.
In his final start of the year, McPherson took a big step toward being part of next season's plans.
“It's big, definitely a chance to step forward,” he said. “I definitely got a boost in confidence from it, and I look forward to next year and I hope to turn some heads,” he said.
The Pirates, no-hit by Homer Bailey on Friday, waited until the seventh inning to score. Alex Presley's one-out double scored pinch runner Chase d'Arnaud from third base to break a scoreless tie.
The Reds tied the game in eighth off Jason Grilli on Scott Rolen's RBI single with two out after Joey Votto was intentionally walked.
McPherson ran into trouble in the first inning but then shackled the Reds, who have clinched the NL Central Division but are bent on beating out the Washington Nationals for the league's best record.
In his prior two starts — both losses — McPherson, the Pirates' 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, gave up six runs and 11 hits in 82⁄3 innings. He made seven relief appearances before that.
More trouble loomed when Wilson Valdez and Zack Cozart opened the first inning with singles.
Votto grounded out, moving the runners to scoring position, but McPherson handled Rolen and Jay Bruce to get away clean.
In the second inning, Reds starter Mike Leake intentionally walked Clint Barmes with two outs and Pedro Alvarez on second. He then unintentionally walked McPherson, who was 0 for 9 with the Pirates in 2012 and 2 for 29 in his career, including the minors.
That loaded the bases, but Presley hit a bullet that first baseman Votto fielded with a diving grab. Votto threw from his back to force McPherson at second base.
Hughes relieved McPherson and pitched a scoreless seventh. Jose Arredondo came in for Leake in the bottom of the inning and yielded Presley's run-scoring hit.
Pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick doubled off Grilli leading off the eighth and scored on Rolen's single. The Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning with two outs, but Starling Marte fouled out.
Notes: The 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit will be celebrated Sunday during a pregame ceremony featuring members of the Clemente family and Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Steve Blass. ... The Pirates have hit 167 home runs, their most since 2000 and four away from breaking the 1999 club record of 171.
Staff writer Josh Yohe contributed. Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7810.
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