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Pirates rout Giants in Andrew McCutchen’s return to PNC Park

May 12, 2018

When Andrew McCutchen stepped to the plate in the first inning Friday night at PNC Park, Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer stepped back to savor the moment.

“I was happy for him,” he said of McCutchen, his former teammate and the ex-face of the franchise.

He knew about the fans’ anger when McCutchen was traded to the San Francisco Giants, but none of that mattered when the bats started ringing doubles, home runs and even a triple all over the outfield in an 11-2 victory.

He also noticed something else: people.

The largest crowd of the season (34,720) was treated to what they expected to see — McCutchen’s homecoming — and a bonus:

The Pirates’ fourth consecutive victory and their third winning streak of four or more games this season.

Manager Clint Hurdle said his team kept the emotional night in focus, a success in its own right.

“There is just growth on the ball club. We’re all working to get a little better every day, and we’re not too caught up in it,” he said. “We’re keeping everything in perspective very well.”

As the game progressed, the Pirates (22-16) hit four home runs among their 15 hits. Starling Marte, Jose Osuna, Josh Bell and Max Moroff homered. Bell’s shot went 432 feet into center field.

“They showed up tonight,” McCutchen said of his former teammates.

“The best of both worlds,” Mercer said. “Obviously, we wanted to win the game, but we know what he’s done for this city and what he’s done for this organization and basically in this clubhouse.”

But Mercer said he can’t worry about what others might think of the team. He and his teammates have a job to do.

“We know that’s part of the business,” he said. “We know he’s with a new team now and it’s time to move on.

“We get it. We can’t just dwell on the past and wish he was here all the time.”

Maybe, he said, fans will start coming out even after McCutchen returns to the West Coast with his new team. If not, the 25 men in the Pirates’ clubhouse still have a job to do, Mercer said.

“It’s about us. That’s the biggest thing in here,” he said. “We hope the fans join us, we hope the fans come out, but if they don’t want to, that’s fine. We’re still going to go out and play.

“We wanted to play well and show them we’re a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully, they’ll come back for more. Hopefully, they’ll come back when anybody’s in town.”

If not …

“Whatever happens out there, happens out there.”

The night had many storylines, even a troubling one when starting pitcher Jameson Taillon was forced to leave the game after the third inning when a laceration erupted on the third finger of his pitching (right) hand. Despite the injury, he struck out five, gave up one hit (a single) and did not allow a run.

“I felt it kind of rip a little bit,” he said. “From my thumbnail coming through on my curveball, maybe. I have to make sure it doesn’t grow any sharp edges.

“It felt like I had pine tar on the ball, and I looked down and it was blood. The skin started to peel away, and it really opened up as I went along. Hopefully by coming out when I did, we mitigated it and I won’t miss starts down the road.”

In Taillon’s absence, Hurdle turned to six relief pitchers: Winning pitcher Steven Brault (who gave up the Giants’ only runs), Kyle Crick, Edgar Santana, Michael Feliz, George Kontos and Rich Rodriguez. Each pitched one inning.

“It’s frustrating. At least it’s not arm or body or anything like that,” Taillon said. “I don’t think it will be too, too serious. I’m glad the bullpen picked me up. It seems like every move we made worked out.”

Or, as Hurdle said, “It was a nice night on the North Shore for a ball game.”

Not so much for McCutchen between the lines.

He was 1 for 5 with a double, and he threw out Colin Moran trying to score from second base on a single to right field.

McCutchen struck out twice, once on a check swing with a runnner on third base to end the third inning. He grounded into outs twice, the final time with the bases loaded to end the eighth.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.