MLB: Pirates upend Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen played a starring role in a 10-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Wednesday.
MINNEAPOLIS - Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen played a starring role in a 10-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Wednesday.
McCutchen got two hits and knocked in three as the Pirates finished off a two-game sweep of the Twins. Pittsburgh wrapped up its interleague schedule with a major-league-leading 13 wins.
The Pirates’ All-Star center fielder tied the game with a two-run homer in the fifth inning then followed with a two-run single in the sixth, scoring himself thanks to a pair of Twins errors on the play.
“It (stinks) they only gave it a single,” McCutchen said. “But I’ll take it.”
Pittsburgh has won three straight games and improved to 59-41. The win total is second in the National League and third in baseball.
The Twins (52-48), clinging to the second wild-card spot in the American League, have lost four consecutive games and are 3-7 since returning from the All-Star break.
Minnesota has held a lead in all four recent losses, including 3-1 heading to the fifth inning Wednesday.
McCutchen’s two-run blast in the fifth turned the tide for Pittsburgh, which had been able to muster only a solo home run through the first 4 2/3 innings against Twins starter Ervin Santana. McCutchen turned on Santana’s off-speed offering, hitting it 408 feet over the wall in left, tying the score at 3-3.
“Getting big hits when we need them,” McCutchen said of his club’s offense. “Just working counts, trying to get on base. That’s been big for us. Just answering back too; if a team scores, we’re coming right behind them.”
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker led off the sixth with a walk and was thrown out on a fielder’s choice grounder by designated hitter Pedro Alvarez. A double off the right-field wall by catcher Francisco Cervelli put a pair of runners in scoring position, and Alvarez scored on a wild pitch by Santana.
Santana then walked back-to-back hitters to load the bases for left fielder Starling Marte, who hit a sacrifice fly to left to make it 5-3.
McCutchen followed with a sharp single to right that skipped under the glove of Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario and rolled to the wall, scoring two. Rosario’s throw to third rolled under the glove of third baseman Eduardo Nunez, and McCutchen was awarded home on an interference call.
“The one thing that I think we lose sight of, I think there are times when he gets pitched extremely tough,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s been pitched extremely well lately - whether it’s been slider, whether it’s been fastball location - and that’s going to happen. There’s ebbs and flows for all seasons for all players. I think, with him, it’s just a matter of time before he gets things back on track.”
Santana’s second Target Field start in a Twins uniform was just as bad as his first; he allowed eight runs (six earned) on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three, but he allowed two homers and threw a wild pitch.
“It was a tough outing today,” Santana said. “Couple of pitches up, couple mistakes. That was the game. I had a couple of good innings, but a couple of bad pitches at not the right times.”
Santana (2-1) has allowed 14 runs (12 earned) in two home starts over 9 2/3 innings (13.70 ERA). He has given up just two runs in three road starts over 23 2/3 innings (0.78 ERA).
“I thought he was pretty good early,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He definitely had his velocity. A lot of sliders early were just missing, and they did a good job of laying off that pitch.”
Former Twin Francisco Liriano (7-6) pitched well enough for the win, allowing three runs (two earned) on 10 hits while walking none and striking out four over 5 2/3 innings. His seven victories this season match his total from a year ago.
“One of those days I didn’t have my (off-speed) stuff,” Liriano said. “You have to go out there and battle and give a chance for your ballclub to win a game. That’s what I tried to do today.”
Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang had three hits, including a solo home run in the second inning. Walker and Cervelli each finished with two hits.
Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks had three hits and has multi-hit efforts in four consecutive games.
NOTES: Pirates LF Starling Marte returned to the lineup, batting in the No. 2 spot. He missed Tuesday’s game because of illness. ... Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe was placed on the paternity list. Plouffe’s wife, Olivia, is expected to give birth to a son on Wednesday. ... Twins SS Jorge Polanco was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Plouffe’s roster spot. Polanco has a hit and a walk in four plate appearances with Minnesota this season. ... Pittsburgh will open a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday at Great American Ballpark. ... Minnesota will continue its homestand, opening a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Target Field on Thursday.