PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen went hard left-knee-first into PNC Park's right-center wall in vain pursuit of Aramis Ramirez's bases-loaded drive in the seventh inning Friday night, and grimaced in pain as three Milwaukee runners scored to snap a 2-2 tie.What loomed as the tragic nadir of the season turned out to be only a disappointment. The Pirates did lose, but only the game. McCutchen shook off the impact, stayed in the game, was frisky in going second-to-home for a ninth-inning run -- and was in his usual lineup home for Saturday night's rematch with the Brewers. Manager Clint Hurdle recalled Ramirez's drive off Jared Hughes and its consequence. "I said a bad word when the ball came off the bat. I usually don't do that in the dugout,' Hurdle said. "I didn't think he'd catch it -- and he still almost tricked me." Seeing McCutchen go, and stay, down made Hurdle's heart skip a beat, then "I was like, 'Man, look how far I have to run.'" Hurdle was just happy that when he returned to the dugout, he didn't have McCutchen with him. Remaining in the lineup meant McCutchen had another chance against Shaun Marcum to rev his bat back to its previous bolt. Through 22 games, McCutchen's August average is 200 points lower than it was in July -- still not bad when reminded that he batted .446 last month while taking his second consecutive National League Player of the Month award. "That's your starting point, then you look at his August, and you hair goes up," Hurdle said. "But there's balance to the game. There's a little disconnect in his swing, but not for the reasons of last year [when McCutchen hit .216 in the second half while over-swinging to compensate for a team slump]."
Southpaw Takahashi provides 'pen with versatility
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' newest relief pitcher was expected to appear at PNC Park at just about first-pitch time for Saturday's game against the Brewers, but Hisanori Takahashi's first game appearance won't happen before Sunday.Takahashi, claimed on waivers from the Angels on Friday, may have had a uniform waiting for him. But he did not have room on the roster: The Bucs will have to clear space on both the 40-man and 25-man lists prior to activating him for Sunday's series finale with Milwaukee. After a brief run with Doug Slaten, and cameos by Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson, manager Clint Hurdle looked forward to having a second, versatile left-hander at Tony Watson's side. Takahashi, a Japanese veteran who was a 35-year-old Major League rookie as a starter for the Mets in 2010, has a varied enough repertoire to fill a variety of bullpen roles. "He's a four-pitch guy. It makes him able to go through a lineup, not just a left-on-left guy," Hurdle said. "He's another of those guys who don't become available when they're pitching well. It's a good fit for us and for him." Takahashi was recently optioned to Triple-A after he'd pitched to a 4.93 ERA in 42 outings with the Angels. The control specialist had a 4-3 record, seven holds and two saves along with a 3.44 ERA in 61 appearances last season. Hurdle ran down some reasons this was a good get for the Bucs: "The experience factor. The skill-set. He gives us another weapon."
One big reason the Pirates had lost five of six going into Saturday night's game: In those six games, they struck out a total of 75 times, while hitting only five home runs; not a very good tradeoff. The Bucs continue to aim higher than a breakthrough .500 record. Or even a Wild Card playoff spot. Manager Clint Hurdle: "We haven't lowered the bar. We haven't backed off our intent to win the division." Still, for .500 watchers, to break through, the Bucs had to go 15-22 in their last 37 games -- and had gone 18-19 in their last 37, prior to Saturday night. Starling Marte (right-oblique strain) played catch for the first time Friday, but "he's not going to be running the bases all of a sudden. He'll do things incrementally. But he is starting to move around more," Hurdle said.
The Last Word
"I don't think I've ever met a more intelligent, mentally-tough, balanced young man in my life. I've had some conversations with him in the past month that have been awesome. Interesting. I don't know what it's like to go on the field and have people screaming 'M-V-P!' for you. I know what it's like to go on the field and have people screaming at you."
--Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on Andrew McCutchen.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.