McCutchen's debut sparks Pirates' 11-6 rout
Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 4 and scored 3 runs in his Major League debut against the New York Mets at PNC Park on Thursday.
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Andrew McCutchen's first sampling of Major League Baseball brought, in order, his first hit in his first at-bat, his first walk, his first RBI and his first steal, all in his first victory with the Pirates, an 11-6 mashing of the New York Mets yesterday afternoon at PNC Park.
That, and his day began with some harried travel and closed with a swarm of microphones and cameras surrounding him.
Small wonder that, once things subsided a bit, he offered this subtle assessment accompanied by an audible sigh ...
"Man, I am tired."
He had better get used to it, given his importance to the franchise.
As fellow outfielder and long-time friend Nyjer Morgan put it, "Cutch is the future around here."
If so, the present made that look plenty promising: McCutchen, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2005 thrust into leadoff duty in his long-awaited debut, finished 2 for 4, reached base with three of five plate appearances and scored all three times.
Ramon Vazquez went 4 for 4, Jason Jaramillo had four RBIs, the offense as a whole went a remarkable 9 for 17 with runners in scoring position, and the bullpen followed a rare subpar start by Ross Ohlendorf -- five runs in 4 1/3 innings -- with nearly perfect relief, highlighted by newcomer Steven Jackson putting up two zeroes for his first career victory.
But not much in this game had a chance to overshadow McCutchen and, surely, nothing did ...
First time up, after a warm welcome from the 20,683 on hand, he escaped an 0-2 hole to bounce Mike Pelfrey's 1-2 fastball up the middle.
"It was nice just to get that out of the way so I wouldn't have to keep thinking about it," McCutchen recalled.
He flied out to deep center next time up and drew a four-pitch walk in the fourth that started a four-run rally that put the Pirates ahead, 9-4, then grounded out in the fifth.
It was in the seventh that he fully shone: With two outs and Vazquez at second, McCutchen, benefiting from his compact, disciplined stroke, turned inside-out on J.J. Putz's 0-2 slider to laser a single the opposite way over leaping second baseman Luis Castillo for his RBI. He then easily stole second and scored on Morgan's ensuing triple.
"It was a special day for Andrew," Pirates manager John Russell said. "Got a couple hits. Stolen base. RBI. He's a dynamic player. He can do a lot of good things for you on the field, on the bases. We're excited to have him."
• Game: Pirates vs. Houston Astros, 8:05 p.m., Minute Maid Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.83) vs. LHP Mike Hampton (3-4, 5.07).
• Key matchup: It is all about Hampton for the Pirates. He has a 0.69 ERA against them this year, 6.43 against everybody else, and has eight consecutive wins.
• Of note: Miguel Tejada has not exactly cooled since torturing the Pirates last weekend, his 17-game hitting streak -- 32 for 72 -- ending with an 0-for-5 last night in a 10-3 loss to Colorado.
McCutchen made just one catch in center and, in his lone negative for the day, ran a circuitous route on Fernando Martinez's fifth-inning line-drive hit that turned it into a double.
"I felt pretty comfortable out there," McCutchen said. "I was a little nervous the first time up and didn't do much with the first couple pitches, but I was OK after that. It was fun, to be honest with you."
And of replacing popular Nate McLouth after a highly unpopular trade?
"I'm not Nate. I'm a different player, so that's not going to affect me. I feel like I'm ready to be here, ready to do my thing."
The Pirates were adamant about that, too, and Russell backed that not only by starting McCutchen but also by having him atop the order, where he batted through most of his four years in the minors. That bumped Morgan down to No. 2, also how it was in the minors anytime those two were teammates.
"We've always envisioned Andrew as our leadoff hitter," Russell said before the game. "He can get on base, draw walks, do a lot of things for us. It's nothing against Nyjer. We like what Nyjer can do behind Andrew, shooting the ball through the infield."
That worked out, too: With McCutchen breaking off first after his first hit, Morgan shot the ball through the right side with Castillo in motion. The top two combined to go 4 for 8 with five runs and two RBIs.
Morgan, despite having been effective at leadoff, sounded delighted by the bump.
"There could be a lot going on at the top of our lineup," he said. "One, two, look out."
There was a lot going on for McCutchen all morning and afternoon, beginning with his 5 a.m. takeoff from Indianapolis, transferring through Cleveland, and a harried arrival, lugging his luggage into PNC Park about two hours before first pitch.
And he was not the only fatigued member of the McCutchen family: His father and mother, Lorenzo and Petrina, as well as younger sister Loren, woke up at sunrise, too, to make the trip to PNC from their home in Fort Meade, Fla.
"We've been waiting for this a long time, and it was a dream come true, how he played," Lorenzo said. "My son's ready, and you saw that."
"We're kind of running on adrenaline right now, but it's worth it," Petrina said. "All of it. All the rides to the tournaments, the time, the money. It's a thrill for us and for Andrew."
The family will follow McCutchen to Houston for the weekend series that opens tonight.
The Pirates took all three in this shortened series with the Mets -- the only other sweep was in April against the Florida Marlins -- and have won four of five.
First Published June 5, 2009 12:00 am