CF McCutchen returns to lineup, but Braves blast fast-fading Pirates
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle knew for certain late Monday night that Andrew McCutchen would come off the disabled list before Tuesday's game against the Atlanta Braves.
“I was charged up,” Hurdle said, then laughed. “The whole ride home, I was honking the horn and waving out the window, ‘He's baaaack!' ”
Atlanta spoiled McCutchen's return Tuesday by rolling to an 11-3 victory.
The free fall that began while McCutchen was on the DL continued to accelerate. The Pirates have lost seven games in a row for the first time since Sept. 7-14, 2012.
McCutchen had not played since Aug. 3, when he suffered a rib cartilage injury on a swing. The Pirates went 5-8 without McCutchen in the lineup.
“We were in a pretty good place for a while, then we stumbled at the end,” Hurdle said. “So we're all happy to have him back. He solidifies the middle of the lineup, lets us move guys back into the normal positions where they'd been hitting. He's ready to go.”
McCutchen might be ready, but is his body? He made it through this game healthy, so that's a start.
“I feel healed,” McCutchen said before the game. “That's why I took 15 days, so I won't have to (monitor) it. It's just go out there and play, like I've been playing before.”
His swing looked smooth, but McCutchen went 0 for 4.
“It felt pretty good,” McCutchen said. “Just trying to get back in the rhythm of things.”
As he walked to the plate in the first inning, McCutchen got a standing ovation from much of the crowd of 27,033. He fouled off three pitches from right-hander Aaron Harang (10-7), then took a called third strike.
He stumbled and fell in the batter's box when he grounded out in the sixth inning.
“A weird swing and fall, that's all,” McCutchen said.
With runners on the corners in the eighth, McCutchen bounced into an inning-ending double play.
In the second inning, McCutchen got his first test in the field. With two outs and Andrelton Simmons on second base, Harang dropped a single into center field.
McCutchen got to the ball quickly and made a strong throw, but Simmons beat the ball to the plate to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
The Braves began the third inning with three straight hits off left-hander Francisco Liriano (3-10). Phil Gosselin and Freddie Freeman singled. Justin Upton hammered a home run into the left-field bleachers. In the fourth, Jason Heyward's RBI single made it 5-0.
Liriano pitched four full innings. In the fifth, he faced four batters without getting an out. He gave up nine runs (seven earned) and 10 hits, walked three and struck out four.
“I was just missing my spots a lot,” Liriano said. “It was one of those nights when anything you throw, they're going to get hits.”
The Braves knocked out Liriano with a five-run fifth. The inning began with a fielding error by shortstop Jordy Mercer, who was back in action after missing four games due to a tight right forearm.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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