PITTSBURGH -- The night belonged to a prominent part of the Pirates' past. Andrew McCutchen's return to PNC Park was met with applause, ovations, signs and a pair of highlight-packed tributes. But the game was won by a Pittsburgh club that's doing just fine in the present.Starling Marte, Jose Osuna,
PITTSBURGH -- The night belonged to a prominent part of the Pirates' past. Andrew McCutchen's return to PNC Park was met with applause, ovations, signs and a pair of highlight-packed tributes. But the game was won by a Pittsburgh club that's doing just fine in the present.
Starling Marte, Jose Osuna, Josh Bell and Max Moroff each homered. Despite Jameson Taillon's early injury, the young Pittsburgh pitching staff that McCutchen praised on Friday night was scored upon in only one inning. And the Pirates' unexpected early-season success continued as they cruised to an 11-2 win, their fourth straight, over the Giants.
"It was the best of both worlds, to be honest with you," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "Obviously, we want to win the game, but we know what he's done for this city and what he's done for this organization and basically within this clubhouse.
"We wanted him to know that we appreciate him, but we wanted to win the game as well. I think it was a good mix of both."
McCutchen had his moments. His former teammates gave him all the time he wanted to soak in a pair of first-inning videos put together by the Pirates and standing ovations from the crowd of 34,720. He threw out Colin Moran at the plate in the sixth inning. He recorded his first non-Pirates hit at PNC Park, a double in the seventh, but didn't score.
"This is one time in his life he needs to enjoy, because he did a lot of good things in this organization," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "This guy was impressive for me, best player in this organization. He deserves all that."
Succeeding McCutchen as the Pirates' No. 3 hitter and center fielder, Marte laced his sixth homer of the season, a two-run shot to left-center field, off Andrew Suarez in the first inning. Marte has ably stepped up in place of Pittsburgh's former franchise player, leaving Friday's game with a .300/.361/.493 slash line and one of the Majors' highest Outs Above Average totals.
The Giants tied the game in the fourth against lefty reliever Steven Brault, who entered the game after Taillon exited with a finger laceration. Mercer put the Bucs back on top in the fourth, driving in Sean Rodriguez with a triple to left-center field.
Then came a streak of success in two areas that were problems for the Pirates in previous years: power and pinch-hitting. Osuna batted for Brault in the fourth and swatted a two-run shot to left, his second career pinch-hit homer and the Pirates' first of the season.
"I tried to change my plan, to change my routine [when I] pinch-hit. Now I feel a little bit more comfortable," Osuna said. "I did that for the first time last year, so I tried to do something different to have better results."
Moran padded Pittsburgh's lead with a pinch-hit double in the sixth. Bell crushed a 432-foot line drive to straightaway center field in the seventh. Moroff punctuated the offensive display with the Bucs' season-high-tying fourth homer, a three-run shot against former Pirates reliever Tony Watson.
The Pirates have hit 46 home runs in 38 games so far this season, third-most in the National League. They finished last year with 151 homers, the NL's second-lowest total. Making the improvement all the more impressive, the Pirates' 2017 home run leader was in the other dugout Friday night.
"I just know I answered a lot of questions over the winter on where the power was going to come from," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The power's coming from a lot of different places."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Welcome back, Cutch: Despite everything that happened afterward, the night reached its emotional peak in the first inning -- and everyone involved played their parts to perfection. After several pregame ovations, McCutchen came to the plate with one out in the first inning to face Taillon.
"I actually tried to really soak it in. That's something you're going to tell your kids about," Taillon said. "I got to face Cutch the first time he came back to Pittsburgh. How cool was that?"
Taillon stepped behind the mound, soaking in the moment and uncertain when it should end. Cervelli lingered in front of the plate, keeping his head down and listening to the crowd roar. For 90 seconds, an appreciative Pittsburgh crowd cheered on McCutchen as he tipped his batting helmet to the Pirates' dugout and to the fans.
"Great emotions there. Makes it a little tough to hit after that," said McCutchen, who wound up striking out. "You're in the moment trying not to wilt up, and you see a 96-mile-an-hour two-seamer coming at you from Taillon, but it was worth it."
The Pirates have scored 36 runs during their four-game winning streak. Among NL teams, they trail only the Braves with 195 runs scored on the season.
The Bucs have put together three different winning streaks of at least four games this season; last year, they did not record their first four-game winning streak until June 10-13 and had only four total winning streaks of at least four games.
HE SAID IT
"We hope the fans join us. We hope the fans come out. If they don't want to, that's fine. We're still going to go out and play and we're still going to try to do our best. When they were here, seeing [McCutchen] obviously, we wanted to play well and show them that we're a force to be reckoned with. We're a good team, too. So I think we did that tonight. Hopefully they'll come back for more. Hopefully they'll come back just to see us when anybody's in town." -- Mercer, on the Pirates' season-high attendance of 34,720
"I loved it. I love that part of the game. … If you don't get caught up in that, you need to go home. I loved it. I loved to see his look in our dugout, and I loved to see him when he went out to the outfield and he's on the board and he's looking at the fans. Very special." -- Hurdle, on the reception for McCutchen
Coming off his best outing of the season, Chad Kuhl will start for the Pirates against McCutchen and the Giants at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at PNC Park. Kuhl struck out eight Brewers over seven scoreless, one-hit innings on Sunday. Jeff Samardzija will start for San Francisco.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.