PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Andrew McCutchen didn’t get any closer to 2,000 hits, but the Pirates leader hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in the eighth as the Pirates beat Oakland 5-4 Monday night and jumped back into first place in the NL Central.
“It was good to be able to get that,” McCutchen said. “Had a couple of situations in the game, had a runner at third and less than two outs. I understand what I need to do. I feel like I was the right man for those situations.”
It was an ugly game at times on both sides, McCutchen had another RBI as he walked with the bases loaded.
“I told him that might have been the best (plate appearance) I've ever seen my whole career,” said Pirates catcher Austin Hedges. “To walk in that situation after a guy throws 100 mph at your head, to foul pitches off with that guy's stuff and then the 3-2 take — that’s why you're an MVP. That's why he's Andrew McCutchen.”
That was one of 10 walks by Oakland pitchers, Bryan Reynolds also drew a walk with the bases full. Connor Joe and Jack Suwinski each had RBIs.
“We got down, but didn’t rush to get back,” said Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “We were still patient. We took two walks and that took patients.
When you start the game and don’t capitalize on opportunities, you have the tendency to try and swing your way out of it and we didn’t do it.”
Oviedo 7 innings
At times sloppy, Johan Oviedo was able to match his career-high of seven innings allowing a pair of earned runs (three overall) with a pair of walks, pair of hit batters and five strikeouts.
“As the game went on I thought he got really sharp,” Shelton said. “Early in the game, he didn’t look he was in his delivery the way he should be. (Pirates pitching coach) Oscar (Marin) had a conversation with him and got him back in attack mode.”
“It was more like trying to focus on getting ahead on the first pitches,” Oviedo said. “I started some hitters behind in the count. Try to get ahead, try to be in two-strike mode as quick as I can so I can get quick outs.”
Lefty Rob Zastryzny gave up a run on two walks in a third of an inning after the Pirates had taken a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Angel Perdomo wiggled out of a couple of three-ball counts with the bases loaded to keep the game tied in the eighth. Colin Holderman gave up a single, double, broken bat single to three straight batters, but Hedges threw out Esteury Ruiz trying to steal with no outs in the ninth and then a fly out and a strikeout for the 27-year-old’s first MLB save.
“I’ve been waiting a while for it,” Holderman said. “It felt great. Even though I had to work a little harder than I would imagine – they put some good swings on the ball – and we got it done. I’m happy.”
Holderman said the caught stealing by Hedges really fired him up as Shelton also credited Hedges for knowing Ruiz was running, but staying focused to make the play.
Milwaukee’s loss to the Reds Monday means the Pirates are back in first place after a May that was so bad the team fell below .500.
“The significance is it’s June 5th,” Shelton said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position because we bounced back after having a tough month. There is a lot of season left. When you go through a month like we had in May, it shows you this group is resilient.”
"We're in a good spot, but I'm not too focused with where we are in the standings,” McCutchen said. “It's literally June. We have to just keep taking care of business, showing up, winning the games we know we should win. If we do that, we'll probably be in a really good spot at the end, but we still have a lot of games to play.”
“We had a good April, we didn't have a good May. We've started pretty good off in June, so we just need to continue to take it day by day. Yeah, I'm not too focused with where we are in the standings."
7-1 Mitch Keller starts for the Pirates against 0-6 Oakland righty James Kaprielian with an 8.12 ERA. North Shore Tavern Leadoff Show with Dan Zangrilli at 6p with first pitch at 7:05 on 93.7 The Fan.