Batting leadoff, Bucs center fielder beats Jeter's throw, swipes a bag
MINNEAPOLIS -- On a night when the spotlight clearly shone upon Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen used his speed to foil what nearly became Jeter's first highlight of Tuesday's All-Star Game.
McCutchen, the first batter to step to the plate at Target Field and the first of three Pirates to appear in the game, lined a 1-0 pitch from Seattle's Felix Hernandez sharply up the middle. Jeter snared it on a dive; McCutchen beat his throw to first. McCutchen flashed a wide grin, knowing that his hustle was not going to win over a sellout crowd that was eager to make this night mostly about Jeter.
"When he dove, I thought it got past him," McCutchen said after the National League's 5-3 loss. "Then I heard the crowd get louder [and] I tried to get on my horse and get there. It was close."
And of Jeter's agility at age 40?
"Age is nothing," McCutchen said. "The guy has been doing it his whole career. It's nothing new. It doesn't surprise you. I was just happy I was able to get the hit."
McCutchen, a four-time All-Star and first-time starter, advanced to second on a wild pitch and swiped third, but he would be stranded there. He went hitless in his next two at-bats before being removed in the bottom of the sixth.
"I always enjoy it every time that I'm here, but I'm actually able to enjoy it while I'm in the moment as opposed to enjoying it after everything is over with," McCutchen said. "It's so overwhelming, and you're so excited, and then, boom, it's over. You look back and ponder on it then. Now I can enjoy it and be in the moment and let it all soak in."
McCutchen's All-Star teammates, Josh Harrison and Tony Watson, also appeared in the game. Harrison took Carlos Gomez's spot in left field in the sixth after arriving in Minneapolis prepared to play any number of positions. He had packed two outfield and two infield gloves to ensure he'd be covered.
NL manager Mike Matheny told Harrison before the game to anticipate being used in left field.
"To be a part of something special is something I'll always remember," Harrison said. "It's definitely exciting, because you never know how the All-Star Game is going to go. You're dealing with an expanded roster and a lot of guys have to get in and get different turns."
Harrison went hitless in his two at-bats.
Lefty Tony Watson had the shortest appearance, as he needed only one pitch to retire Jose Abreu in the eighth. That was the only batter he would face.
Matheny then sent Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, one of his All-Star coaches, to congratulate his pitcher and make the pitching change. Watson was replaced by another NL Central reliever, Aroldis Chapman.
"To pitch in a Major League All-Star Game is surreal and very exciting," Watson said. "All of these guys here are the best of the best. To be able to talk to guys in the bullpen during the game and to be able to share baseball talk, it's a great time. These two days flew by, but I made a lot of memories and had a lot of fun."