News: Team USA was back in action last night. They took on Team Venezuela for the first game of the second round. Andrew McCutchen was put back into the lineup.
Andrew McCutchen has been a star in Major League Baseball essentially since he made his debut back in 2009. People who are fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates immediately gravitated towards him. At the time, back in 2009, he was the only real positive to look at on a consistently poor team. Four years later, McCutchen took home the MVP honors and led the Pittsburgh Pirates back above .500, and even better the playoffs. McCutchen had established himself as one of the best players in MLB. However, in 2016 we saw a different Andrew McCutchen. He seemed a shell of his former self. His defense became poor in centerfield, he rarely attempted to steal a bag – he was actually thrown out more than he successfully stole – and in general, he was not hitting the way he showed in the past.
Around the league, many fans, players, and analysts wondered what was going on with the five-time all-star. To this day, no one really knows what happened in 2016. McCutchen talked about how he broke down his swing and built it back up this offseason, but he also said he battled some nagging injuries last year. Meanwhile, many people outside the game feel it was a combination of being banged up and simply just having an off year. With that, many fans are expecting the face of the Pirates franchise to bounce back.
Andrew McCutchen had a good start to his Spring Training. He came in healthy and ready to switch to right field. He had 13 at-bats leading up to the World Baseball Classic. In those at-bats, he collected four hits, giving him a .308 batting average, a batting average that fans would love to see him have during the regular season. Then it was time for Andrew McCutchen, and the rest of Team USA, to depart for the WBC. Fans hoped to see Cutch put on a strong display in the tournament to help ensure that he would have a strong 2017.
First Game for USA
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McCutchen was in the lineup for the first game against Team Colombia. Unfortunately, for him and all of Team USA through the first half of the game, they struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Jose Quintana tossed a one-hitter for Team Colombia into the 6th inning. After Quintana was pulled from the game, Andrew McCutchen was also replaced by manager Jim Leyland. Leyland decided to play the matchups and bring in the left-hand hitting Christian Yelich against the right-handed pitchers. Unfortunately, for McCutchen, Yelich would take advantage of the opportunity and get a couple hits. Yelich stayed hot all through the first round and continued to hit well, leaving McCutchen on the bench. Not only was McCutchen not getting starts in the outfield, but he was not even being used off the bench. He received zero plate appearances the rest of the way through round one.
Back in the Lineup
However, with Giancarlo Stanton also somewhat struggling, Leyland decided to give Andrew McCutchen another start against Team Venezuela. Last night, Team USA picked up their first victory in their first game of round two. Andrew McCutchen got the start in right field. He ended the night playing the whole game, going one for four at the dish. His one hit was a single down the right field line.
Vintage Cutch Swing
McCutchen also just missed a three run home run. In classic Andrew McCutchen form, he ripped a hard line drive to right-center field. Off the bat it looked to be a home run and it would have given Team USA the lead at the time. Instead, the ball came up just short of the wall and was caught for an out. Out of the batter’s box McCutchen did a shuffle jump, suggesting he thought he got it, then the spacious Petco Park swallowed the liner up only to leave Cutch with a disappointed look.
With that being said, Andrew McCutchen looked like pre-2016 Andrew McCutchen last night. His swing was short, quick, and compact. He looked energized and ready to go. Maybe the time on the bench made him get more energized to be back in last night. He got his first hit of WBC, and crushed another pitch that would be out of PNC Park every time. Essentially, you know Andrew McCutchen is feeling good when he is driving the ball the other way, and he did that last night.
Rest of Spring
Hopefully McCutchen continues to get at-bats from here on out to help him get ready for the 2017 season. If he goes on another bench sitting spell, it will not be any good for him to continue to be there. The more at-bats he has, the better chance he has at regaining his confidence and form, as he misses the time to do this at Spring Training. If last night was any sign of how he is feeling mechanically, then Pittsburgh Pirates fans could see Andrew McCutchen returning to form this season.
*Team USA won the game 4-2. Adam Jones tied the game at 2-2 in the eighth inning when he hit a solo shot off Cub’s reliever Hector Rondon. Then, later in the inning, Eric Hosmer hit a two-run bomb off Rondon to take the lead. Josh Harrison did not appear in the game, and he has only one plate appearance in the entire tournament this far.
The Dominican Republic vs Team Venezuela 10:00 PM ETS
Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and the Dominican Republic take on Team Venezuela tonight. Polanco is batting over .500 for the Dominican Republic and has played center field. Meanwhile, Starling Marte has only played in one game due to a non-serious ankle injury. Both teams are, in a way, facing elimination already, as they both are 0-1. It could be a very fun game to watch. Both teams will be putting it out on the field to avoid dropping to 0-2.