Pirates send message with win against Reds

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Andrew McCutchen hopes the Pirates were able to send a message to the Cincinnati Reds and the rest of the National League Central with the way they won Friday night at PNC Park.

After the Reds clawed back from a four-run deficit, capped by a two-run homer from Brandon Phillips in the top of the seventh inning to tie the score, McCutchen responded with a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning to lift the Pirates to a 6-5 victory.

"It shows that we're not going to wait around," McCutchen said. "We're a team that's going to fight. Just because they tied it up, just because we had a four-run lead doesn't mean we're going to give up."

McCutchen's home run, the Pirates' third of the season, helped overcome Phillips' second home run of the game. After falling behind 0-2 to reliever J.J. Hoover, McCutchen fouled off two pitches before cracking a curveball low in the strike zone and sending it into the bleachers in left field.

It wasn't a great pitch to hit, McCutchen said, and few hitters can put much power on a pitch that ends up low and away. What helped McCutchen with Hoover's curveball was his patience, especially after fouling off a 92 mph fastball the pitch before.

"I know that if I get myself in the right hitting position, I know I'm able to hit whatever pitch may come," he said. "I just use my hands."

It was McCutchen's second home run of the season and the first this year for the Pirates at PNC Park. He finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs, and Phillips also drove in three runs. Phillips' two-run blast in the seventh inning off reliever Tony Watson erased what would have been starter A.J. Burnett's first win of the year.

"I just tried to go in, and it came back over the plate," Watson said. "He's a good hitter, and it was just a bad feeling. But Cutch picked us up."

Burnett is still winless after three starts, all of which he pitched well enough in to earn a win.

Burnett allowed three earned runs over six innings, giving up six hits and striking out eight batters. He finished the game two strikeouts shy of 2,000 for his career and is currently 69th on the all-time strikeouts list.

"The way I look at it, I could have pitched a lot better," he said.

Burnett left the game with a two-run lead, the first run support Burnett has received this season. The Pirates (4-6) didn't score in the past 11 innings Burnett was on the mound this season and hadn't scored at PNC Park with Burnett on the mound since Aug. 27, 2012.

"It's always huge," Burnett said. "That's the good thing about tonight, bats are getting hot."

But the Reds (5-5) chipped away at the deficit, little by little, with two RBIs from catcher Devin Mesoraco.

The Pirates pounced on starter Mike Leake in the second, scoring four runs on five hits to take a 5-1 lead and put Burnett in command.

All five of the hits in the inning were singles.

Travis Snider sparked the big inning when he hustled down the first-base line after hitting a blooper just beyond second base.

Leake (0-1) settled in after the second, never allowing more than one baserunner in an inning. He allowed five earned runs on 10 hits in six innings.

Russell Martin's second hit of the season gave him his first RBI as a Pirate -- and gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Martin hit a ground-ball single through the left side of the infield, scoring Neil Walker from second base.

Martin's last RBI came 17 games before in the American League Divisional Series as a member of the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles.

But the lead was short-lived. Phillips led off the second inning with a solo home run, two pitches into the at-bat. He drove an 0-1 fastball, left up in the zone, over the 399-foot mark in center field to tie the score, 1-1.

"I was upset about the second," Burnett said. "We take shut-down innings very seriously as a starting group, and we should. You need to go out and put a zero up after we score."

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published April 13, 2013 4:00 AM


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