McCutchen sinks Phillies on walk-off
Center fielder redeems himself for gaffe with two-run shot
PITTSBURGH -- In the end, Andrew McCutchen's defensive gaffe only ensured that his two-run walk-off homer less than 10 minutes later would be that much more of a compelling story. Just don't begin to think McCutchen scripted it that way.
Minutes after closer Matt Capps blew a one-run lead, McCutchen capped a frenzied Pirates rally with his game-winning homer off Phillies closer Brad Lidge to send Pittsburgh to a thrilling 6-4 win in front of 17,049, many clad in Phillies red, at PNC Park on Tuesday.
"What a way to end the game," manager John Russell said, obviously still trying to process the hasty series of events that had just occurred.
But to fully savor the ending, you first have to back up.
After valiant relief work from Joel Hanrahan, Phil Dumatrait and Jesse Chavez preserved a one-run lead, it was Capps' turn to save a win for starter Ross Ohlendorf. It didn't take long, though, for the Phillies to produce consecutive doubles that tied the game at 3.
"It's been a rough season for me," said Capps, now with four blown saves this year. "Tonight wasn't any better."
"[He was] just flat," Russell said of Capps. "When you do that against a very good fastball-hitting team, they're going to get you."
Then, with two outs, Shane Victorino drove Capps' 1-0 fastball to deep center. McCutchen initially broke in a few steps. And by the time he realized the ball was hit harder than he thought, there was no such thing as a recovery.
"I just automatically thought the ball was going to fall in," McCutchen said. "One step in and I was done already."
The inning would end soon after, but now with the Phillies enjoying a one-run lead. Only a Pirates offense was ready for collective redemption.
"I think everyone saw Matt on the bench, he was dejected, obviously," Russell said. "You saw a lot of energy. They still had an opportunity to do something."
And really, for the first time all game, they did. Yes, the Pirates had gotten Steve Pearce's two-run homer and Ryan Doumit's solo shot earlier, but the team had also gone 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position through eight innings.
Now, though, the Pirates would enjoy significant contributions from the unlikeliest supporting cast. First it would be Luis Cruz, who was a late lineup substitution for the injured Ronny Cedeno. He singled to left and shortly after, advanced to second on a wild pitch.
|"It was amazing. I was just so excited. To be able to come through, to be able to redeem myself after that ball was hit over my head, I really just wanted to be able to help the team and come through."|
|-- Andrew McCutchen|
"I don't get to play that often," said Cruz, who had already saved a run in the eighth when he snared a line drive with one out and a runner on third. "I want to do my best every time I get a chance to play, so I can show what I can do."
Pinch-hitter Brandon Moss, dragging his .154 August batting average with him, came up with the second clutch hit of the inning, as he followed with a single to right.
"I needed it," said Moss, who snapped an 0-for-11 skid with the hit. "It's been about two weeks."
Brian Bixler, pinch-running for Cruz, initially saw a stop sign from third-base coach Tony Beasley as he raced toward third on the hit. He stopped, then started up again when Beasley, seeing that Jayson Werth had fumbled the ball in right, changed his mind and waved him home.
"It just kind of happened really fast," Bixler said. "I actually never did get to pick up the ball."
His thought as he raced toward home?
"Just run," Bixler said. "I still didn't see the ball until he was catching it."
Catcher Carlos Ruiz's tag wasn't in time as Bixler slid in safely as the tying run. Moss moved up to second. And that brought McCutchen to the plate, the center fielder refusing to carry his earlier mistake up there with him.
"I tried as hard as I could to go up there and focus on the now and focus on what I needed to do when I came to bat," McCutchen said. "Just throw it away. Don't think about it."
After being surprised that he was given the sign to swing away, McCutchen saw the pitch that he wanted.
"It was a two-seam fastball right over the middle," said Lidge, who entered having blown eight saves this year. "The last pitch I tried to throw was a two-seam to try to get a little movement on it and it didn't do anything."
It would indeed be Lidge's last as McCutchen put it just over the right-field wall for a game-winning homer. The walk-off win would be the fourth of the season for the Pirates, the third that has come on a home run.
"It was amazing," said McCutchen, who raced around the bases and did a leap into a swarm of teammates as he reached home. "I was just so excited. To be able to come through, to be able to redeem myself after that ball was hit over my head, I really just wanted to be able to help the team and come through."
"We didn't let the last two runs in the ninth inning get us down," added Cruz. "We kept fighting."
And Russell: "It was an outstanding game from the first pitch on."
Though Ohlendorf ended up not factoring in the decision, he kept the Pirates in the game by limiting the Phillies to two Jimmy Rollins solo homers in his 6 1/3 innings. And though the Phillies wouldn't bite on his sinker -- the reason he had mostly fly-ball outs -- Ohlendorf, like his teammates, thrived in an atmosphere that pit nearly a split of Phillies and Pirates fans.
"I was really looking forward to going in to face the Phillies," he said. "You know it's going to be a tough challenge."
And for the first time in four meetings between these two teams this year, it would be the west side of the Keystone State that enjoyed victory.
"I didn't know the history of the rivalry, but I kind of figured it out around the third inning when there was that Phillies chant," Pearce said. "This was definitely an exciting night tonight."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.