McCutchen homers, Pirates blank Brewers 5-0

Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (22) rounds second base past Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jon Niese made it sound simple as he talked about how he pitched.

Niese combined with two relievers on a three-hitter and Andrew McCutchen hit his first home run of the season as the Pittsburgh Pirates blanked the Milwaukee Brewers 5-0 on Saturday night to end their four-game losing streak.

Niese (2-0) won his second straight start, giving up all three hits while walking three and striking out three in seven innings. He also got 12 of his 18 outs on grounders.

“It was a matter of pounding the strike zone, following the game plan and getting good defense,” Niese said. “I can’t say enough about the guys behind me. They made all the plays.”

The Pirates were tagged for 30 runs during their skid. Acquired from the New York Mets in an offseason trade, the left-hander Niese also notched a win Monday at Detroit

Tony Watson and Mark Melancon finished the shutout with one scoreless inning each. Melancon struck out the side.

McCutchen’s solo shot off Taylor Jungmann in the fifth inning increased the Pirates’ lead to 4-0 after they scored three runs in the fourth.

The drive to left field came in the star center fielder’s 54th plate appearance. McCutchen was so happy that he stopped in front of dugout after rounding the bases, broke into a big smile and raised his hands skyward.

“It was about time,” McCutchen said. “I’ve hit so many balls right on the barrel already this season and don’t have much to show for it. I could have eight home runs already with a little bit of luck.”

McCutchen hit seven home runs during spring training, including five in a seven-game span late in the exhibition season.

“Sometimes, Andrew needs to get some things out of the way and he then he really gets moving,” Piratesmanager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m sure after hitting seven in the spring, he was thinking about not hitting any in the first two weeks (of regular season).”

Jungmann (0-2) had his road woes continue as he allowed four runs and six hits in six innings with six strikeouts and one walk. The Brewers have lost Jungmann’s last nine starts away from Milwaukee and he is 0-8 with 9.39 ERA in those games.

“No idea,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said when asked about Jungmann’s road struggles.

The Brewers lost for the third time in four games. The Pirates at 6-6 got back to .500 after winning for just the second time in eight games since beginning the season 4-0.

Last season, as a rookie, Jungmann went 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts against the Pirates.

Josh Harrison had two hits and drove in two runs for the Pirates, including an RBI triple that highlighted the three-run third and a single in the eighth that capped the scoring.

Francisco Cervelli also had two hits and leadoff hitter John Jaso extended his hitting streak to seven games with a third-inning single.


Brewers: RHP Blaine Boyer (strained neck) was available to pitch in relief after having missed a week but did not get into the game.

Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (strained right hamstring) threw in the bullpen before the game and declared himself ready to start Tuesday night at San Diego but the Pirates medical staff wants to see how he feels Sunday before committing to the start. He was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday against Detroit.


Brewers rookie center fielder Keon Broxton, who is still looking for his first major league hit after 18 at-bats, was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Saturday and rookie right-hander Zach Davies was recalled from the same club.

Broxton, 25, went 0 for 16 with 11 strikeouts and two stolen bases in six games this season.


Davies will start the finale Sunday of the three-game series against Juan Nicasio (1-1, 5.00). Davies was 0-0 with a 2.00 ERA in two starts with Colorado Springs after going 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA in six starts for Milwaukee at the end of last season.