Pirates Notebook: Perhaps This Year IS Different
PITTSBURGH, PA — Drew Sutton hasn’t been wearing Black and Yellow for very long, but he had quite the moment on Tuesday night. After Joel Hanrahan blew just his third save of the season to the Houston Astros on a two out, two-strike RBI double, the game went to the bottom of the ninth inning tied at seven.
The club had already rallied back from a four-run deficit in the game and tied the game up in the seventh inning. So one would think a second comeback would be highly unlikely. But not for these 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates.
With one-out, Sutton stepped to the plate against the Astros lefty reliever Wesley Wright.
“The first at-bat [of the inning] was against Gorkys [Hernandez] and he threw a lot of sliders,” Sutton recalled. “That seemed like it was his pitch. I wanted to try and look off the fastball and make sure that if he threw the slider, he was gong to hang it. And he did.”
Sutton drove a 1-1 pitch to center field for his first home run as a Bucco. The long ball was the second walk-off win from a home run this season for Pittsburgh and it gave the Pirates their sixth win in their past seven games.
“I didn’t know if I hit it well because it was deep to center. I was yelling at it,” Sutton said drenched after receiving a shaving cream pie in the face and downed from the water cooler by starter A.J. Burnett.
“You just enjoy it, getting beat up. I knew they were coming. I was just wondering when he was going to come. I’ll do it all over again if I can. Just enjoying moments.”
The home run was the first for Sutton since October 3 in 2010 when he was with Cleveland.
“It’s been awhile. The last at-bat of the season with the Indians in the big leagues. So, that was a good one,” Sutton said.
Since joining Pittsburgh, Sutton has made the most of his opportunity. He went 3-for-5 on the night pushing his average to .320 as a Pirate after starting the season in Triple-A with the Atlanta organization. Sutton was traded to Pittsburgh, then to Tampa Bay before the Pirates reclaimed him off waivers. The moment of the walk off home run and flashing the team’s ‘Zoltan’ sign as he touched home plate, was a big moment for the veteran.
“It’s why we play the game,” Sutton said. “Even guys like me, who’ve bounced around team to team, every once in a while, you get a little moment. You better enjoy it, because you never know when [it will come again]. Up and down in the big leagues, you try and stick with clubs. It makes it much more sweet when you do get here and you have moments like these.”
Perhaps the win was a sign that this year IS different for Pittsburgh.
The club battled back throughout the game to improve to a season-high eight games over .500. Not since the final game of the 1992 season –their last winning season– had they been eight over.
“We’re never down and out,” Garret Jones said, who launched a two-run homer that cleared the right field seats to tie the game for the Bucs in the seventh inning . “We always have our chin high. Even when they scored that run to tie the game, we wanted to get back in there, get a bat in our hand and get it going. Our confidence is very high. Just trying to keep it going, find a way.”
Is there anything that surprises you anymore with this club this season? Nothing seems to for Manager Clint Hurdle.
“I just like the way we hang together,” Hurdle said. “If we get into a tight spot, we just kind of hang in there. If we get underneath we just try and scratch out and claw and battle back. We just don’t let things get too out of control emotionally or physically. I didn’t have Sutton right-handed, center field. Didn’t have that. That was a complete battle. We threw it all out there.”
And it was a team effort. Starter A.J. Burnett struggled for the first time this season at PNC Park. He lasted just five-plus innings and gave up six runs on 12 hits. It marked his first outing in Pittsburgh where he allowed more than two earned runs. But the offense picked him up.
Andrew McCutchen had a three-hit night and hit his 16th home run of the season. Pedro Alvarez came through in the clutch with a pinch-hit two-run single as the club continued to battle and claw their way back. The team is clicking, and it’s not something they were doing in the early part of the season.
“We’ve got more guys that are in play that are playing well,” Hurdle said. “Look at [Casey] McGehee’s plays at third base the last two nights. Look at [Michael] McKenry’s job the first four innings last night, blocking 14 different balls in the dirt to keep us in a good place. There’s a bunch of different things going on. There’s s a lot of good things going on. There also comes a point in time where a group of men committed to a one goal, nobody cares who gets the credit can do some pretty exciting things. So far, three and a half months into the season, that’s the direction we seem to be headed. They’re having a blast. They have each others backs and it’s fun to watch.”
Presley Exits With Concussion-like Symptoms, Alvarez Okay
Alex Presley was replaced by Gorkys Hernandez in the bottom of the fifth inning due to concussion-like symptoms. Presley suffered the injury after a diving play in the top of the first inning. With two outs, Jed Lowrie hit a base knock into shallow right field. Presley dove attempting to make the catch, the ball reflecting off his glove.
There was no current update on his status after the game.
Pedro Alvarez was scratched from the game due to lingering issues with his leg. The third baseman suffered leg cramps on Sunday and sat out of the lineup on Monday. Alvarez came through in a pinch-hit at-bat to drive in two runs, but was replaced at first base with a pinch runner. Alvarez said after the game that he was fine and expects to be in the lineup on Wednesday.
Hernandez Returns to Pittsburgh After Hot June
Gorkys Hernandez was recalled on Tuesday when the club decided to demote Jose Tabata to Triple-A to reignite his focus on the field. Hernandez will likely see the same playing time he had his first trip to the Majors last month. The outfielder was used as a defensive replacement and a pinch-runner –his two strengths of the game.
“He made two highlight plays while he was here,” Hurdle said. “Spectacular. Arguably our best defender.”
Hernandez is coming off a good month of June while at Triple-A. Over 24 games, Hernandez hit for a .293/.405/.402 line after hitting .277 in May.
“He’s been in a good place,” Hurdle said. “Offensively he’s been in a pretty good place. He’s had a real solid month of June offensively…We’ll probably find a way to put him in the lineup against left-handed pitching. He’s a wonderful defender to have on the club. We had him on the bases a few times and he had some clean breaks and reads. He’ll help there.”
How long Hernandez will remain with Pittsburgh is unclear. The outfielder is just happy to back in the Majors. When asked what he brings the ball club, Hernandez said energy.
“I’m really, really happy. I missed it here,” Hernandez said. “I want to stay here for a long time. I don’t want to back to Indianapolis in the Minor Leagues. I’m just working hard and we’ll see what happens.”
“When I got sent down, I’m working on the same thing I worked on here. Try to hit the ball, more line drives. I try to put it into play everyday. I’ve been doing a better good job lately.”