McCutchen delivers tying, winning hits for Pirates
Andrew McCutchen might be warming up for an encore to his dazzling 2012 season.
After a slow (by his standards) start to the year, McCutchen has found his batting stroke in the past two weeks. Saturday, he delivered two pivotal hits that boosted the Pirates to a 4-2 victory against the New York Mets.
“I'm satisfied when we're winning,” McCutchen said. “Numbers are going to fluctuate up and down. As long as I know I'm doing what I can to help us win, I'm satisfied. I'll take that over everything.”
Last year, McCutchen went into the All-Star break with a .362 batting average, a 1.039 OPS, 18 homers and 60 RBI. This year, McCutchen was hitting .247 at the end of April. It climbed steadily through May, leveled out in June, and 10 days ago finally cracked .300.
After collecting two hits — a game-tying homer and go-ahead single — Saturday, McCutchen bumped up his average to .303 with a 0.849 OPS. He has 10 home runs and 49 RBI.
In the sixth inning, Mets reliever David Aardsma's first pitch to McCutchen was high and tight.
“When he got buzzed, Andrew looked at us in the dugout, and it was like, ‘OK, I got this,' ” manager Clint Hurdle said.
McCutchen launched the next pitch over the center-field wall, tying the game at 2.
“I was ready to hit,” McCutchen said. “He came up and in, and I was able to bear down and not miss my pitch.”
In the seventh, singles by Travis Snider and Jose Tabata put runners on the corners with one out. McCutchen lined an RBI single off righty Greg Burke (0-2), putting the Pirates ahead to stay.
Russell Martin later drew a bases-loaded walk to score Tabata.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett threw 96 pitches in 52⁄3 innings — the fourth time in his past five starts he hadn't lasted past the sixth inning. In his second outing since coming off the disabled list, Burnett gave up two runs on seven hits, walked four and struck out eight.
“You want to go deeper than that, obviously,” Burnett said. “But, I think I was a little sharper at times tonight, and there's no issue with my calf.”
Burnett still was wearing New York Yankees pinstripes the previous time he'd faced the Mets. He beat them in an interleague game May 21, 2011.
It had been nearly three years since Mets right-hander Carlos Torres had started a game in the major leagues. After tossing six innings in a losing cause for the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 3, 2010, Torres pitched in Japan in 2011 and last season toiled in the Colorado Rockies' bullpen.
Torres, 30, began this year in the Mets' farm system. He won his final five starts for Triple-A Las Vegas before being called up June 15.
Marlon Byrd walked with one out in the fourth then came all the way around to score on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' double to center to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Byrd figured in another run in the fifth. Eric Young and Murphy got it started with back-to-back singles. Young was thrown out at home on David Wright's fielder's choice grounder.
Murphy and Wright pulled off a double steal. But with runners at second and third, Burnett struck out Ike Davis swinging at a nasty curveball.
On a 1-1 pitch, Byrd hit a chopper to short and beat the throw for an RBI infield single. Clint Barmes got to the ball quickly but double-pumped to get a better grip before throwing on the run, and it cost him.
Torres started to fade in the fifth, and the Pirates came up with a run.
Garrett Jones doubled — just his third hit in a span of 29 at-bats — and scored when Jordy Mercer roped a single to right.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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