CINCINNATI — Andrew McCutchen drove a 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall in the ninth inning Saturday night to resurrect a game that had turned sour for the Pirates.
When the reigning National League MVP’s turn in the order came around in the 11th, he did it again to lead the Pirates to an important 6-5 comeback win against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
The first home run tied the scored at 5-5 after starter Charlie Morton gave up two crippling home runs in the sixth to erase an early 4-0 lead. McCutchen’s second gave the Pirates the win.
“It was a good day at the office, I’ll say that,” McCutchen said. “I was just ready to hit, that was it. … That throw from [Gregory] Polanco [in the 10th], if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been able to be in that position. Him making that huge throw, that was a game-changer for us.”
The home runs were McCutchen’s 16th and 17th this season. The first was off reliever Jonathan Broxton, the second off J.J. Hoover.
“He’s a very confident guy and he’s looking for one pitch in one zone most every time he goes up,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Big swings of the bat for us, huge swings of the bat for us [Saturday night]. A game-tying home run and a game-winning home run? He’s a special player and shows why.”
The Reds threatened in the 10th when Ernesto Frieri walked Ramon Santiago and Todd Frazier to open the inning.
Jay Bruce nearly drove in the winning run with a single to right field off Justin Wilson, but Santiago was out at home when Polanco threw a rope to catcher Russell Martin, who applied the tag.
“Game’s over if he doesn’t make that throw,” Martin said. “I feel like everything was going in slow motion. I was making that play.”
Wilson then struck out Ryan Ludwick and Brayan Pena to get out of a bases-loaded jam, retiring the two with his fastball, which topped at 98 mph.
“If they were going to beat me they were going to have to beat me with my fastball,” Wilson said. “I figured if I’m going to get beat it’s going to be hard. … Polanco and Russ, that play right there was game-saving.”
The win gives the Pirates a 49-45 record.
“He got in that zone he’d been searching for all year, really,” Martin said. “It was an overpowering fastball, the ball was coming out with a great angle to it. It was like he had tunnel vision and he was able to execute.”
The Pirates had manufactured runs in the first, third, and two in the fourth to carry a 4-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominating start by Morton.
Martin drove in Travis Snider with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the first, then drove in McCutchen with another sacrifice fly in the third to make it 2-0.
Gaby Sanchez scored from third on a Matt Leake pick-off attempt in the fourth and Polanco drove in Jordy Mercer with an RBI single.
Morton struck out Hamilton and Jay Bruce with his curveball in the first and gave up one hit through three innings, and just three through five.
Morton had history on his side at Great American Ball Park, carrying into Saturday a 3-0 record with a 1.30 ERA in his past four starts at the stadium, dating to 2011.
He was clipping along through five scoreless innings then he walked Zack Cozart to open the sixth, and it cost him quickly when pinch-hitter Chris Heisey homered.
Then Billy Hamilton, who had struck out in his first two at-bats, singled and stole second. Morton walked Santiago and suddenly the go-ahead run was at the plate with no outs.
Morton worked the count full before Frazier drove it swiftly to center field.
McCutchen could do little but turn, take a handful of steps, then stop and watch it leave the ballyard.
“The Heisey home run, after that he was up and out over the zone. Nothing was playing real sharp. … It was a strange inning for Charlie to have a three-hit shutout through five and throw 51 pitches, then throw 36 pitches [in one inning],” Hurdle said.
The Pirates put two aboard in the eighth with back-to-back one-out singles by Mercer and Josh Harrison. Polanco beat out a double play to send Mercer to third with two outs, but he was stranded there by pinch-hitter Ike Davis.
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.
First Published July 12, 2014 11:42 PM