I’ll be honest, when I found out I was heading to Pittsburgh, Pa., for a week for a journalism convention, nothing made me happier than the fact I’d be that I’d be able to check up on my newest fantasy baseball player, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, in person.
How excited was I?
Well, right before post-game interviews Thursday, one Pirates’ media relations employee said to me, “You want to wait until he’s finished dressing?”
Yeah, since I wasn’t carrying a tape recorder, I was creeping to the front of the line to be able to hear his exact words.
And McCutchen, by pure coincidence, was the player of the evening. Every reporter in the press box was huddled around his locker.
McCutchen, a rookie-of-the-year candidate who is batting .330, smacked home the game-winning run in a 3-2 walk-off win over the visiting Cleveland Indians in interleague play.
More than that, McCuthen was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored in the win, which he celebrated with exuberant teammates after McCutchen touched first base (as shown above).
“He put together some good (at-bats),” said Pirates manager John Russell, who was ejected for the first time this season earlier in the game.
Granted, McCutchen’s game-winning single was huge, but he produced an equally big, bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning that tied the score 2-2.
He was down 0-2 in the count, too. He parlayed it into an eight-pitch at-bat before drawing the walk against defending AL Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee.
“I would have struck out three times if I was a rookie in that situation,” said Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson. “He’s not up here for defense. The kid can swing the bat. Thing is, he has been in big-league camp since he was in high school, so we’re not surprised by what he’s doing.”
McCutchen, a leadoff hitter, lined out to second base in his first at-bat, grounded into a fielder’s choice in the third inning and extended his hit streak to 13 games with his double off starting Lee in the bottom of the sixth. (That hitting streak is top amongst all rookie hitters this season.)
“They were all good to me,” said McCuthen when asked of his favorite at-bat.
In the ninth, McCutchen was showing bunt with runners on first and second base and no outs. Wilson stole third on the second pitch, which McCutchen took for a ball to even the count at 1-1.
“That was a sigh of relief,” McCuthen said. “It was like, ‘OK, now I can swing it.’ I was feeling good at the plate.”
He swung and missed at the next pitch before sealing the victory with a single. After sprinting to first, he ripped off his batter’s helmet and tipped it to the crowd. Not for long. He was mobbed by teammates, who took him to the ground during the celebration.
McCutchen, who has played in 20 games for the Pirates, said he hasn’t put any pressure on himself as the organization’s top prospect.
Rookie of the Year? He hasn’t thought twice about it.
“I’m day-by-day, game-by-game,” he said. “If you set any goals for yourself, you set yourself up for failure.”
On the season, McCutchen is batting .330 (30-for-91) with 18 RBIs and 14 runs scored. The speedster has four doubles, five triples and a home run.
Still, McCutchen said he hasn’t reflected on his fast start as much as he has being a pro at the highest level the sport has to offer.
“I enjoy it all the time,” he said. “This is what you dream of as a kid. I hits me every day, just the fact I’m here.”
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