MILWAUKEE (TNS) – The biggest puzzle for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year has been the way-below-average performance of former MVP and perennial All-Star Andrew McCutchen.
McCutchen still has the ability to decide the outcome of games, however, as the Milwaukee Brewers discovered Thursday night.
McCutchen, who entered the game batting .246 with 17 home runs and 52 runs batted in, drove in all three Pittsburgh runs, including the decisive RBI single with two down in the 10th inning, to lead the Pirates past the Brewers, 3-2, at Miller Park.
It was a rare win here for the Pirates, who had lost nine in a row at Miller Park and were 17-64 at their least favorite ballpark since 2007.
The Brewers were dominated for six innings by Pittsburgh rookie starter Chad Kuhl, who was cruising along with a two-hit shutout. Then, in a span of three batters, it all changed.
With one down in the seventh, Chris Carter yanked a double into the left-field corner. Kirk Nieuwenhuis then jumped on a first-pitch slider from Kuhl and drove it far out to right for his 12th homer, tying the game at 2-2.
When Orlando Arcia followed with a double to left, Kuhl was lifted from the game. Left-hander Felipe Rivero took over and got out of the inning without further damage, but after six innings of nothing on offense the Brewers had tied the game.
Making his fourth start since being recalled from Class AAA Colorado Springs, right-hander Wily Peralta battled through five innings without his best stuff. Peralta allowed five hits and three walks and had two runners on base in each inning but limited the damage to two runs, keeping the game close.
But in his first two at-bats against the Brewers, McCutchen showed he can still do damage.
With two down in the first, McCutchen yanked a 3-2 slider from Peralta down the left-field line and over the wall for his 18th home run of the season. After Starling Marte singled and stole second with one down in the third, McCutchen singled into right-center to put the Pirates on top, 2-0.
In the meantime, the Brewers were having no luck with Kuhl. He put down the first seven hitters before Manny Pina doubled, a hit that led to nothing in the third inning.
After a single by Ryan Braun with one down in the fourth, Hernan Perez grounded into a force at second. Perez stole second base and then third on a pitch that resulted in a walk to Carter. With runners on the corners, Nieuwenhuis grounded out to first and it remained 2-0.
Jhan Marinez took over for Peralta in the sixth and pitched two perfect innings, giving the Brewers time to make their comeback. After they tied it, 2-2, in the seventh on Nieuwenhuis’ homer, Corey Knebel put down the Pirates in order in the eighth.
Closer Tyler Thornburg took care of the ninth for the Brewers, keeping the tie game intact.