PITTSBURGH — If Andrew McCutchen is playing his final homestand in a Pirates uniform, he’s sure making it count.
McCutchen hit his first career grand slam as part of a two-home run, eight-RBI performance in the Pirates 10-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
McCutchen single and scored in the first, doubled and scored in the fifth and hit a three-run home run in the seventh, but the biggest swing came in the second inning, when he sent a pitch 412 feet — imagine that — into the right-center field stands at PNC Park.
McCutchen was feted with a curtain call not once but twice and then received a standing ovation when he was removed from the game by manager Clint Hurdle in the top of the seventh inning.
It was a fitting tribute for the performance McCutchen had put on display: 4-for-4, four runs, two home runs and eight RBIs — the most by a Pirates player since Jason Bay in 2004.
“I thought it was appropriate at the time, in front of the hometown crowd, last homestand,” Hurdle said. “It’s a special night. The fans were very appreciative. He’s done a lot of wonderful things here on the North Shore. Tonight was a very, very special night for him.”
It was a special night, but not just for McCutchen’s performance. His nine-year career in Pittsburgh is to closer to its end than it is the beginning. After being the subject of trade rumors last season, McCutchen has already been suggested as a potential trade piece for the Pirates this winter.
There’s no telling the odds of McCutchen playing more than one more game — Wednesday’s finale — in a home uniform at PNC Park. But there’s at least a chance that Tuesday night was his penultimate performance.
“We’ve still got a game tomorrow, so it was awesome, but I’m like, ‘Shoot, I’m trying to have another good game tomorrow, too,’” McCutchen said of the curtain calls and the ovation. “It’s awesome to be able to come off the field (like that).”
But he said that he hadn’t thought of it as being his potential last homestand as a Pirates player.
“It hasn’t crossed my mind, really,” he said. “I don’t really let that creep in at all. There’s five games left. I’m just trying to finish those five games.”
If it was McCutchen’s big moment as a Pirate at home, it will remain a memorable one, both for McCutchen and the 19,318 in attendance. McCutchen said those big moments are one of the things he’ll remember from his time in Pittsburgh.
“It’s our nature as human beings. When you have a great night, you just feel like you can do it again. You just want it. You want to do it again and replicate it over and over and over. That’s how I feel. You have a good night, you can do it again. You cherish all the good days and the bad ones. You’ll have more bad ones than good ones, that’s for sure. When you have a good one, it’s something special.”
It’s fitting that the fans at PNC Park were such a part of McCutchen’s big night, because in his time in Pittsburgh, he has been a reason for many to come to the ballpark night in and night out.
“He’s been a linchpin at times,” Hurdle said. “He was the first guy that pushed it all in, contractually. The contract was a good contract for everybody, but there were commitments on both sides and he was vocal in the fact that he wanted to be here. He wanted to be a part of the turnaround. He wanted to experience that as a Pirate. His commitment level hasn’t wavered as far as work and the want-to, the desire to win.”
Hurdle recalled an anecdote from when McCutchen won the 2012 Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year Award. During his acceptance speech, he told a joke about how he’d become a full-fledged Pittsburgher.
“I finally got to the point where they don’t call me Larry Fitzgerald anymore,” McCutchen said at the time, and Hurdle said that just shows how in-tune he had already become with the city around him.
“That’s hilarious,” Hurdle said. “I don’t care who you are. That’s funny. That kinda summed it up. He’s got an intent work desire. He’s a very funny guy. The smile, so many times during the seven-year period, has said it all.”