The 2013 National League MVP continued his recent surge Saturday, when his 12th home run powered the Pirates to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.
McCutchen belted a solo shot to left field off Justin Grimm that extended his hitting streak to eight games and pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth. His 12 home runs are tied for the team lead with Josh Bell.
“It was hittable,” McCutchen said. “I stayed on and was able to hit it out. (I was) just ready to hit. Good things happen.”
McCutchen’s homer proved to be the game-winner, as Addison Russell led off the seventh with a homer to pull the Cubs within 4-3.
Pittsburgh (31-37) bounced back from allowing six runs in the ninth inning of a 9-5 loss to Chicago (33-34) on Friday.
Left-hander Felipe Rivero got the final five outs for his third save of the season. He has a 0.72 ERA in 36 appearances this season.
“The last two years, besides this year, I’ve been worried so much about the hitters,” Rivero said. “This year, I’m not worried about it because this is my third year and I think I know them pretty well and I know who they are.”
After the Pirates surrendered a 2-0 lead, Adam Frazier singled to right to score Jordy Mercer from third and put them ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth.
Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (6-5) was pulled after throwing two wild pitches and hitting David Freese to load the bases in the fifth. He allowed three runs (two earned) and four hits with seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
Arrieta pitched with a laceration on his right thumb, but said the cut did not give him any problems Saturday. Instead, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Arrieta sweated profusely, which made it difficult to grip the ball.
“It was more wetness than the cut or anything with his finger,” Maddon said. “He didn’t say anything to me about his finger. It was more about he could not grip the ball. He was so darn wet. Dripping, I mean absolutely dripping.”
Gregory Polanco built the Pirates’ 2-0 lead with his first home run since May 28 in the bottom of the first inning. After Francisco Cervelli advanced Frazier to second base on a fielder’s choice, Polanco roped a 397-foot home run on a 0-1 pitch over the right-field wall.
Entering Saturday, Polanco was 3-for-27 in his previous seven games. He followed his homer with another sharp shot to right field, with this one bouncing off the wall in the third inning.
“Some real good at bats from Gregory,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sweet swing on the homer, the double. To get an intentional walk (in the fifth inning), he hasn’t been in that position. Just put him on and pass on him. He’s continued to work hard. (He) did some quality work out there today as Bell did, as Frazier did. It paid off for all of them.”
It seemed like Polanco’s home run could provide all the insurance Nova needed until Arrieta homered to left field to tie it 2-2 in the fifth. The home run was Arrieta’s first of the season and fifth of his career.
“It still got in on me a little bit, but I was able to find a little bit of barrel and put it out,” Arrieta said. “We were close in the end. Really, when you have a guy like Nova go seven and you have Rivero come in with that type of arm for a couple innings, it makes it tough. We’re just hoping he makes a mistake.
NOTES: Pirates 2B Josh Harrison sat after going 1-for-5 against the Cubs on Friday. Adam Frazier took over at second base. … Pirates C Francisco Cervelli moved up from seventh in the lineup to second. … Cubs 3B Kris Bryant returned to the lineup after sitting out Friday’s game. … Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber batted eighth after going 0-for-5 Friday when he hit third in the order.