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
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.