The Pittsburgh Pirates welcomed Andrew McCutchen back to Pittsburgh on Friday night as they started a nine-game homestand by hosting the San Francisco Giants
No matter what happened on the field Friday night was going to be remembered as the night Andrew McCutchen returned to PNC Park. After spending nine seasons as the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ franchise and one of the best players in baseball, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants this past offseason.
As for the game on the field, the Pirates scored early and often and slugged four home runs – giving them 46 this season which is third most in the National League – on their way to an 11-2 victory over the Giants. With the win, the Pirates improved to 22-16 on the season keeping them a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals, who as of this writing were in the 2nd inning of their game against the San Diego Padres, for first place in the National League Central Divison.
In his return to PNC Park Andrew McCutchen received a well deserved loud standing ovation as he was announced as the Giant’s number two hitter in the top of the 1st inning on Friday night. After getting ahead in the count 3-0, Cutch would strikeout looking against Jameson Taillon for the second out of the inning.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, the Pirates would grab a quick lead against San Francisco starter Andrew Suarez.
After issuing 2-out walks to both Francisco Cervelli and David Freese, Suarez got Sean Rodriguez to line out to third base to end the inning. Suarez was lucky to get out of the inning only trailing 2-0. Max Moroff and Josh Bell both laced balls down the left field line that just barely went foul, and the ball Rodriguez hit for the final out of the inning was an absolute bullet.
Through 3 innings on Friday night Taillon was excellent for the Pirates. He allowed just a pair of base runners and struck out 5. However, after the top of the 3rd inning, he exited with a finger laceration.
Unfortunately, Brault could not continue Taillon’s success.
After loading the bases via a single and a pair of walks, Brault faced Austin Jackson with 2-outs and the bases full of Giants. Jackson would lace a 3-2 pitch into right field tying the game at 2. Brault then struck out Suarez to end the inning.
In the top of the 5th inning the Pirate offense would get back to mashing Suarez and regain a lead they would not relinquish.
With 1-out and Rodriguez on first, Jordy Mercer tripled him home to make the score 3-2 Pirates. Jose Osuna then stepped to the plate to pinch hit for Brault and showed why he needs to be in the lineup against left-handed pitchers. Osuna would clobber a Suarez pitch 442 feet to left field for his 2nd home run of the season, this made the score 5-2 Pirates.
After a scoreless 5th inning from Kyle Crick, who the Pirates acquired in the McCutchen trade, and a scoreless 6th inning from Edgar Santana, the Pirates added to their lead in the bottom half of the inning.
After Mercer’s third hit of the game, pinch hitter Colin Moran drove a double off the center field wall to score Mercer. Moroff then singled to right field. On the play, third base coach Joey Cora aggressively waved the slow footed Moran home.
McCutchen would throw Moran out at the plate from right field, but the Pirates challenged the call on the field. Despite it appearing as if Moran was safe, the call on the field was upheld. This brought the inning to an end with the Pirates leading 6-2.
The Pirate lead would improve to 8-2 in the bottom of the 7th inning. This came when Bell hit his 3rd home run of the season. All of a sudden, the Pirate first baseman is starting to heat up.
In the top of the 8th inning ex-Giant George Kontos would face his old squad. A hit by pitch, single, and an error allowed the Giants to load the bases for who else but McCutchen. Kontos would win the battle though, getting Cutch to groundout to end the inning.
An underrated part of the Pirate victory on Friday night was the work of their pinch hitters. Pittsburgh’s pinch hitters went 2-for-2 with a walk in the victory which was great to see, especially since pinch hitting has been an issue for the Pirates this season.
In the bottom of the 8th inning yet another player would face their former team. This time, it was left-handed reliever Tony Watson facing the Pirates.
After allowing a leadoff double to Rodriguez and walking pinch hitter Adam Frazier, Watson would face Moroff with 1-out. The switch hitting second baseman would then hammer a 3-run home run to right-center field, making the score 11-2 Pirates and ending Watson’s night.
Richard Rodriguez was tabbed to pitch the 9th inning for the Pirates. Rodriguez would slam the door on the Giants, while recording his 23rd strikeout in just 13 1/3 innings pitched, to finish off the 11-2 Pirate victory.
Friday was a special night at PNC Park. The return of Andrew McCutchen, as expected, was an emotional one. But the best part was the Pittsburgh Pirates picking up an 11-2 victory in front of 34,720 fans to continue their great start to the season.
Game two of the weekend series is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, however, the weather forecast looks less than promising. If the game happens, Chad Kuhl will start for the Pirates while the Giants counter with veteran Jeff Samardzija.