McCutchen homers twice in Pirates' extra-inning win
CINCINNATI — As usual, Andrew McCutchen's timing was impeccable.
McCutchen blasted two solo home runs Saturday at the right time and against the right opponent.
His homer in the ninth inning tied the score, and his shot in the 11th lifted the Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
“It was a good day at the office,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen's late-inning heroics conjured a much-needed win in what has been a rough road trip.
Maybe it's a sign the Pirates finally are ready to start beating up on the top teams in the National League Central.
“Yeah, it'd be a good thing for us to do,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
McCutchen tied it 5-5 in the ninth inning with a 418-foot solo homer off Jonathan Broxton. McCutchen won it in the 11th with a two-out shot off J.J. Hoover.
“Big swings of the bat — huge swings of the bat,” Hurdle said. “He showed why he's a special player.”
McCutchen jumped on a first-pitch slider and launched it over the left field wall. It's his ninth career multi-homer game.
“My approach doesn't change, regardless of the (situation),” McCutchen said. “Get a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. That's what I try to do every time I hit.”
In the 10th, right fielder Gregory Polanco saved the game by throwing out Ramon Santiago, who tried to score from second on Jay Bruce's single.
“Perfect throw,” catcher Russell Martin said. “Game's over if he doesn't make that throw. I felt like everything was going in slow motion. I was going to make that play.”
The Pirates beat the Reds for the fourth time in 12 games this season. With one game to go before the All-Star break, they're 2-4 on a road swing against the Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pirates (22-29) and the last-place Chicago Cubs (16-28) are the only two NL Central teams with losing records against the rest of the division.
The Pirates are 9-4 against the Cubs and 13-25 against the Reds, Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Pirates' 27-16 mark against teams outside the NL Central has kept them afloat in the division race.
“There's another more important number here,” Hurdle said.
“It says we're (21⁄2) games out of first place. At the end of the day, you'd like to get straight As in everything. Sometimes you don't, so you've got to find another way. It would help us to play better in our division, no doubt.”
After the All-Star break, the Pirates will play six games against each of their division foes. All of those games will happen after Aug. 21, a five-week stretch that will sort out what figures to be a close battle for playoff berths.
“We've had our challenges, with the Brewers and these guys (the Reds) in particular,” Hurdle said. “We've got to improve upon that.”
Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was solid for five innings but surrendered a 4-0 lead in the sixth. Chris Heisey lined a two-run, pinch-hit homer, then Todd Frazier hit a towering three-run shot.
Morton has allowed eight home runs already this year, his highest total since serving up a career-worst 15 in 2010.
“I think from the get-go I wasn't locating,” Morton said. “The ball was up, the ball was flat.”
Reds starter Mike Leake threw 24 pitches in the first inning as the Pirates took a 1-0 lead.
With one out, Travis Snider singled, McCutchen was nicked by a pitch and Walker walked. Martin flew out to shallow center field. Billy Hamilton's throw beat Snider to the plate, but the ball squirted out of Devin Mesoraco's glove and Snider was safe.
The Pirates made it 2-0 in the third. McCutchen led off with a well-struck double to left-center. He went to third on Walker's grounder and scored on another sac fly by Martin.
Over the first 1,107 games of his career, Martin hit 20 sacrifice flies. The two sacrifice flies Saturday equaled Martin's output from his first 181 games with the Pirates.
It was the first two-sac fly game of his career.
Sanchez and Jordy Mercer opened the fourth with back-to-back singles. Polanco's single scored Sanchez. Mercer scored from third on Leake's errant pickoff attempt.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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