Cumpton’s Gem Leads Pirates to 6-0 Win, Doubleheader Sweep of Cardinals

Andrew McCutchen Pirates

Andrew McCutchen saved two runs in Game 1, then hit a two-run homer in Game 2. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

A sound will endure from the Pirates’ doubleheader sweep of the Cardinals and the most important day for Pittsburgh baseball in 20 years: “Holl-i-day… Holl-i-day.”

After Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer off the glove of St. Louis right fielder Matt Holliday to cinch a 6-0 victory and keep first place in the National League Central, the fans in PNC Park’s left field jeered him the rest of the night. The Cardinals’ Pittsburgh playland (the Redbirds were 62-37 at PNC entering this year) has transformed into a house of nightmares. Or Brazil.

“Sick atmosphere tonight at PNC,” injured Pirates closer Jason Grilli tweeted, “Felt like a rowdy soccer crowd at times.”

Because it’s the Cump

Brandon Cumpton Pirates

Brandon Cumpton lowered his season ERA to 2.78 by throwing a stellar 4th start. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Other sounds? Applause for spot starter Brandon Cumpton. The rookie right-hander was sparkling in Game 2, pitching seven shutout innings, allowing only one walk and three ground-ball hits for his first Major League quality start and win.

“It’s indescribable,” Cumpton said. “Lot of credit to my defense tonight. Just tried to fill it up, throw strikes and my defense made plays behind me.”

That would be 65 strikes in 87 pitches, as manager Clint Hurdle said Cumpton’s command was the best he has seen. Cumpton did not allow any St. Louis runners into scoring position after the 3rd inning and retired the last nine hitters he faced, exiting to a more-content-than-raucous standing ovation from those 33,861 gathered fans.

Tony Sanchez Pirates

Tony Sanchez: “I couldn’t have asked for a better night. I don’t even care that I went 0-for-3.” (Photo Credit: David Hague)

“We were on the same page all night, no shakes… Where I called it, he put it,” catcher Tony Sanchez said. “I caught him last week in Charlotte, and he was not as sharp as he was tonight.

“Tonight was easily his best night.”

Pirates Build a Lead, Then Coast

The crowd’s cheers for Sanchez’s PNC Park debut rang in his ears as well, as did his at-bat song of “Tony Montana” by Future.

“They loved the walk-out [music]. I do that for them,” Sanchez said. “When you’re behind the plate and when you’re hitting, you can really hear everything. They’ll really yell your name and you can hear it.”

Jose Tabata

Jose Tabata trots in to score after Yadier Molina’s passed ball. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates raised the volume by striking first, going up 1-0 in the 2nd inning thanks to plenty of help from St. Louis’ fielders. Jose Tabata reached base by knocking a ground ball off third baseman David Freese’s glove for an error. Josh Harrison followed by lining a single to left field, then Tabata scored when Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina (who left the game nursing a knee sprain) let Tyler Lyons’ pitch in the dirt and past him for a passed ball.

In the the 5th inning, it was Top-Of-The-Pittsburgh-Lineup Time. Starling Marte led off by mashing a triple off the right-center-field wall, and Jordy Mercer followed by hitting an RBI single to center. Then McCutchen cranked a long fly ball to the deepest part of the park: left field. Holliday chased it back, back, back, put his glove up but the ball knocked off the leather and into the bleachers. Jeers and yells accompanied a 4-0 Pirates lead from McCutchen’s bat.

“The challenge of being the 3 hitter in the lineup and at times maybe being pitched around, I think he’s handled that well,” Hurdle said. “Andrew is doing what Andrew does.”

Tony Sanchez Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday was given no sanctuary from Pirates’ fans taunting after the 5th inning. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Bucs bought insurance in the 7th. McCutchen led off by singling to left off reliever Keith Butler, then Gaby Sanchez hit an RBI double past Holliday, drawing more laughs and taunts. Two batters later, Tony Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly to Holliday for his first MLB run batted in. More Left Field Loonies joined the insult-fest of the Cardinals’ left fielder, who was doubled off baserunning in Game 1.

Sound Off

Jeanmar Gomez wrapped up the doubleheader victory by pitching the final two shutout innings. The Pirates own baseball’s best record, lead the Cardinals in the division by 1.5 games, the Reds by 6.0 games and are 10 games ahead of any other NL team fighting for a playoff spot. They stepped into their clubhouse two times the victor, hearing the pumping bass from their stereo and Ray Dalton singing: “This is the moment /  Tonight is the night, we’ll fight ’til it’s over / So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us.”

Given that the riverbank filled with noises for 20 innings Tuesday, does any sound stand out in McCutchen’s mind?

“Just the crowd being in the game, both games,” McCutchen said. “It was awesome.”

Call it a joyously loud baseball holiday at PNC Park, at the expense of Holliday.

James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • https://profiles.google.com/112402176672885120423 Alex Henry

    “What a day ulalala” This day will be one of the few days we look back on this year and say that is one of the statement days of the season there will not be a collapse all the doubters can now finally stop the pessimism and the bandwagoners can hop aboard the bucs are the real deal! proud day for bucs fans!

    • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

      Well, I’m not going to stop feeling pessimistic for at least another month, but I will say I am thoroughly enjoying watching them play and will very gladly eat a heaping pile of crow during their first playoff game, in fact, nothing would make me happier.

  • CalipariFan506

    I just want to eat some crow on Brandon Inge. A week ago I actually thought he could bring more to the team than Harrison.

    • belfry

      You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.
      And as you said, it was nice to see Harrison bring it. :)

    • Y2JGQ2

      much respect caliparifan, much respect. – i wish they would have let Cumpton pitch the shutout, he may never get another chance in this atmosphere and with the lead where it was, they should have let him do it

  • emjayinTN

    Nice to get into first place and have Rookie Brandon Cumpton and new Pirate in 2013, Jeanmar Gomez, combine for a shutout against the best offense in the NL. And with help from the regulars like ‘Cutch, but with additional help from Gaby Sanchez, JHay, Jordy Mercer, and Tony Sanchez to name a few. A great message to send to the rest of the NL and also to our own fan base who are anxious to get some help for the “stretch run”. I think we already have all the help we need to accomplish that, and I would hate to see the Pirates give away talent – enjoy the chemistry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

    Cumpton’s start is something that Pirate fans will remember for a long time, especially if they would go deep into the playoffs. Of course, I did not see it because the Pirates are inexplicably blacked out in Columbus but just an incredible pinch start. He has been great and I am starting to believe he could be the #5 or swingman next year.