LOS ANGELES — If there’s a single baseball connoisseur left unaware of the ability of Andrew McCutchen, he put on a display Sunday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of a prime-time national audience.
McCutchen doubled twice, homered and scored three runs off Dodgers starter Zack Greinke to lead the Pirates to a 5-3 win and an unexpected series win against the Dodgers.
He also ran a mile to track a fly ball to shallow center field and make a sliding catch for an out in the seventh inning.
“He has a knack for slowing it down, more often than not he does that,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “To do it at this level, big game, big-time pitcher, four pitches, two doubles and a homer … pretty impressive.”
A split would have been considered a strong series for the Pirates, but they took three of four on the back of two strong starts by Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano Thursday and Friday, and followed it Sunday with a solid outing by Edinson Volquez.
The Pirates are 26-30, and 4-3 with two legs of this 10-game road trip completed. They hadn’t won three games at Dodger Stadium since 2000.
McCutchen had a .190 average against Greinke coming in, but it was a small sample size.
“It was just being ready to hit,” said McCutchen. “I have been getting pitches to hit, but I’ve been a little late probably because my timing has been on off-speed pitches. I had to get my timing back to fastballs and did that [Sunday],” said McCutchen. “It’s just good that we’re able to get three out of four against a really good team here in L.A. As you know we haven’t done that in a long time.”
Pedro Alvarez had two key RBI singles, driving in McCutchen and Ike Davis in the first inning, and McCutchen again in the sixth with a line drive to center field that gave the Pirates a 4-2 lead.
Josh Harrison extended the lead to 5-2 with a home run to right-center field off reliever Chris Perez to continue to pound his case to stay atop the lineup.
Jason Grilli allowed a run on two walks and a single in the ninth inning, but earned the save.
The Pirates got on board first when Alvarez beat a shift with the bases loaded in the first inning, hitting a grounder to left-center field to drive in McCutchen and Davis.
McCutchen stroked a two-out double to get the rally started and Greinke walked Davis and Russell Martin to load the bases.
Alvarez hit a four-seam fastball on the outside corner as the Pirates forced Greinke to throw 27 first-inning pitches.
The Dodgers got on board in the second when Justin Turner singled in Matt Kemp.
But Volquez got out of a tight spot in the third with his curveball, inducing a swinging strikeout by Adrian Gonzalez with two baserunners. His velocity again was up a tick, hitting 96 mph several times and topping at 97 in Yasiel Puig’s second at-bat.
That increase first showed in a game last week at Citi Field in New York, but Volquez shrugged it off as some kind of error.
Volquez finished his outing after five innings, giving up five hits, two earned runs and one home run. He walked one and struck out six.
“You can’t make a lot of mistakes against these guys especially with Greinke pitching. I got better fastball command than New York, so was able to throw more strikes and keep the ball down,” said Volquez. “I’ve been feeling good the last couple of starts. I was able to shut it down and just make better pitches.”
Turner hit his third home run of the season off Volquez in the fourth as the Dodgers cut the deficit to 3-2.
The Pirates managed five hits and four runs off Greinke, who entered the game with a career 13-2 record at Dodger Stadium since joining the club in 2013.
“To beat him? He’s an ultra-competitor. You’ve got to out-compete him,” Hurdle said. “We laid off some tight pitches, we worked some counts, we got the pitch count up, we hit balls we were able to handle, we put the barrel on and did something with it. You give him strike one he can cut you up three different ways. We tried to be as aggressive as he was.”
The Pirates will send Charlie Morton to the mound to open a three-game series tonight against the San Diego Padres.
Morton (1-7, 3.29 ERA) is 2-0 lifetime with a 1.33 ERA against the Padres in three starts.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter First Published June 1, 2014 11:44 PM