PITTSBURGH -- After being out of the starting lineup for the last two games, Andrew McCutchen returned to the Pirates lineup Friday, hitting sixth.This is the lowest McCutchen has been slotted in the order in his nine-year career and the first time he's been moved outside his regular third spot
PITTSBURGH -- After being out of the starting lineup for the last two games, Andrew McCutchen returned to the Pirates lineup Friday, hitting sixth.
This is the lowest McCutchen has been slotted in the order in his nine-year career and the first time he's been moved outside his regular third spot since April 2015. McCutchen went 1-for-4 with a single up the middle in an 8-1 loss to the Mets.
"It's a different look in the lineup," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "If you're going to hit in the first inning, it's a real good thing. If not, he gets to settle in and watch guys hit in front of him through an inning just to change the whole environment of what's going on a little bit."
McCutchen entered Friday slashing a career-worst .203/.274/.360 this season and was just one for his last 22 with zero extra-base hits. However, he is in high spirits despite the demotion and is excited to be back in the lineup.
"The three-hole sometimes can be one of those spots where you feel like you've got to produce and deliver and come through, especially early or in the middle of the game," McCutchen said. "I've had plenty of opportunities in the last few series with runners in scoring position, and I might be putting added pressure on [myself]. …It was frustrating. I'm just doing anything I can to get me going. I'm all for it."
In McCutchen's absence, the Pirates scored 21 runs in two games, the most in any two-game stretch for them since Sept. 15-16, 2016. Hurdle hopes that will help alleviate any pressure McCutchen puts on himself.
"Our team plays best when Andrew plays good baseball." Hurdle said. "I think also being out the last couple days continued to bring to his mindset that he doesn't have to be anything more than the best Andrew he can be this year. We put 21 runs on the board, and he had one at-bat in the two games. That can help a guy along the way too, just realizing that you don't have to do everything I need to have to do sometimes."
Supporting the Penguins
The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, in double overtime on Thursday to advance to their second straight Stanley Cup Finals, much to the delight of several Pirates.
After the game, McCutchen tweeted "I just peed me pants, And im okay with it!!! #Pens" and was impressed by how poised the team was.
"It was really cool to see from that team just to show what a championship team does," McCutchen said. "I didn't want to jinx it, but the Pens had more energy the whole time. You could see it on the ice. I just watched, and I was amazed to see how those guys worked together. There was no panic, and that goal at the end, I was screaming loud."
Right-hander Gerrit Cole said he watches as many games as possible and plans to go to Monday's Game 1 after the Pirates game against Arizona.
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland, and covered the Pirates Friday.