Andrew McCutchen

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Pirates leaning against trading Andrew McCutchen

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Over the winter there was serious talk about the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen to the Washington Nationals. His move to left field to allow Starling Marte to take over center further served to make McCutchen a less important part of the Pirates long term plans.

Then the season began, Marte got suspended for PEDs and, after a bumpy start, McCutchen caught fire. He hit .411/.505/.689 in June he has a .333/.444/.561 line in the month of July. For the year he’s now at .292/.384/.507 with 17 homers and 57 RBI. Even with Marte back on the roster, McCutchen is the Pirates’ center fielder. What’s more, the Pirates, after beginning the season slowly have righted the ship somewhat and are now only three games back in the NL Central.

All of which makes this, from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, unsurprising:

That option is a quite reasonable $14.5 million, so it seems sorta crazy that they wouldn’t pick it up. Of course if they remain coy enough about it for now perhaps someone will bowl them over with an offer. Letting McCutchen walk seems insane. Unloading him for a hefty haul would, well, still be kinda crazy given how popular McCutchen is with the fan base, but not truly insane.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:

Giants 5, Padres 4 (12 innings): A big fourth inning from both the Padres and Giants gave the teams the backing they needed for another extra-innings affair, but this time, it was the Giants who prevailed in the end. Hours before the seagulls of McCovey Cove even entertained the thought of swarming the field, Nick Hundley broke a 4-4 tie in the 12th inning with a walk-off RBI single, his first walk-off hit for the Giants in 2017:

Cubs 3, Cardinals 2: The Cubs fueled their hot streak with another win on Saturday, resting on 5 2/3 perfect innings from Jon Lester to lock down a one-run lead over the Cardinals. The win, Lester’s seventh of the season, was made all the more poignant by its circumstances. He took the mound just one day after the death of his uncle on Friday, and dedicated his performance to him with the letters “PLACT” (“Play Like a Champion Today,” a motto from his uncle’s alma mater, Notre Dame) etched on the front of his cap.

Lester was phenomenal on the mound, retiring 17 consecutive batters to start the game and losing the perfecto with Adam Wainwright‘s first-pitch single in the sixth. The Cardinals eventually took the lead in the eighth inning, plating a pair of runs with back-to-back homers from Paul DeJong and Randal Grichuk to gain a two-run edge. They were met with three runs in the bottom of the inning, however, and Anthony Rizzo‘s two-out, go-ahead double secured the win.

Astros 8, Orioles 4: Marwin Gonzalez became the unlikely hero of Saturday’s win over the Orioles when he blasted a 387-foot home run out of Camden Yards:

The dramatic three-run knock was the product of unusual circumstances: Astros’ starting third baseman Colin Moran was removed from the game in the sixth inning when a foul ball deflected off of his bat and struck him near the left eye. He crumpled to the ground and was carted off the field before finishing his at-bat, at which point Gonzalez subbed in and promptly clubbed his 18th homer of the year. Houston ran with the two-run lead, earning their 65th win after another two-run effort from Evan Gattis and Carlos Beltran in the ninth.

Brewers 9, Phillies 8: The Brewers huffed and puffed their way to a win on Saturday, snapping a horrendous six-game skid to stay atop the NL Central standings, albeit by a narrow margin. They carried a seven-run lead into the seventh inning, highlighted by Ryan Braun‘s incredible dash from first to home plate after first baseman Tommy Joseph overthrew the bag at second base.

The Brewers nearly lost it all when the Phillies mounted a massive rally to tie the game in the eighth, but Domingo Santana persevered with a clutch RBI single in the ninth, saving the team from another extra-inning debacle and netting the team’s 52nd win of 2017.

Twins 6, Tigers 5: Kyle Gibson went the distance for the Twins on Saturday — that is, he lasted more than seven innings, a feat in and of itself for the 29-year-old hurler. It was his longest start since September 2016 and a much-needed winning effort for the Twins, who have gone 4-4 since the All-Star break. The Twins backed Gibson’s three-run, five-strikeout outing with six runs, but nearly lost it all when the Tigers rebounded for five runs in the eighth.

Marlins 5, Reds 4: An hour of rain did little to upset the Marlins’ plans on Saturday night. Chris O’Grady got shelled by the Reds’ offense, giving up three runs on four hits and six walks in just 4 1/3 innings, but the club found their salvation in a two-homer performance from J.T. Realmuto:

Not only did the win position the Marlins to execute their first sweep of the second half, but it set a new franchise record:

Mets 6, Athletics 5: With the trade deadline only a week away, it stands to reason that most teams want to put their best foot forward. For the Mets, that meant sticking Asdrubal Cabrera at third base for his first career start in the hot corner.

Luckily for the veteran infielder, nothing tricky or unusual broke his way. He fielded two easy ground balls and only missed Ryon Healy‘s line drive single into left field in the eighth. While that might not have been the most convincing showcase for Cabrera’s versatility around the horn, the 31-year-old upped his marketability with a single and double at the plate. The spotlight quickly shifted to Wilmer Flores in the ninth inning, though, as the second baseman broke a 5-5 tie with a two-out, walk-off home run.

Rangers 4, Rays 3: Chris Archer was left hanging after another dominant performance on Saturday night, turning in four runs, a walk and 11 strikeouts in a losing effort against the Rangers. In six starts with at least 11 strikeouts this season, the Rays’ hurler carries a 2-4 record and an average 4.67 runs of support (skewed slightly by a 12-1 win over the Royals in May).

A lack of run support wasn’t the only thing to blame for Archer’s defeat, however. He lost the game on a tie-breaking wild pitch to give Adrian Beltre the go-ahead run in the sixth:

Indians 2, Blue Jays 1 (10 innings): Francisco Lindor was all smiles after notching his first career walk-off home run during Saturday’s extra-inning win. The Indians’ shortstop waded through a seven-pitch at-bat before selecting Danny Barnes‘ 2-2 heater for a 438-foot homer in the 10th:

The blast backed an impressive start from Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar, who made his first appearance of the second half after rehabbing a strained right shoulder. He fired seven pristine innings of one-hit ball and struck out eight of 21 batters in his fifth no-decision of the season.

Royals 7, White Sox 2: “Dingers” was the name of the game on Saturday, when the Royals fueled Jason Vargas‘ winning efforts with five home runs to secure the lead. Melky Cabrera got the White Sox on the board with a solo home run and RBI double, but the rest of the offense failed to materialize as the Royals crafted a seven-run rally. Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas went back-to-back in the sixth…

…shortly followed by another solo blast from Brandon Moss, his 12th of the season:

Jorge Bonifacio plugged another home run in the seventh, while Moustakas returned for a second helping in the eighth. It was the second time the Royals combined for five home runs in 2017, following another five-homer performance back in June, but they still fell one dinger shy of the all-time franchise record set against the Mariners in 2003.

Rockies 7, Pirates 3: The Pirates’ six-game win streak came to an abrupt end at the hands of rookie right-hander German Marquez, who held the Bucs to just three hits and two runs over seven innings on Saturday. His one mistake? Plunking Andrew McCutchen in the sixth, which resulted in some old-fashioned retaliation from Colorado starter Chad Kuhl and a predictable, benches-clearing dispute:

Nationals 4, Diamondbacks 3: Anthony Banda finally got the call he’d been waiting for this weekend. The Diamondbacks plucked him from Triple-A Reno and inserted him into Saturday’s lineup for his first big league start, though things didn’t go quite as smoothly as expected. Banda punctuated his first major league inning with a home run to Bryce Harper, one that cleared the wall in center field and landed on the concourse. The Nats returned in full force in the sixth inning, amassing another three runs on RBI doubles from Harper and Ryan Zimmerman and an RBI single by Anthony Rendon and preserving their 11-game lead in the NL East with their first win of the series.

Angels 7, Red Sox 3: When Mike Trout is at bat, there are few less enviable positions than that of the opposing pitcher. Except, maybe, the photographer crouching in foul territory:

The end result of that at-bat was only slightly less thrilling: Trout worked a nine-pitch walk and scored on Albert Pujols‘ two-run double for the club’s first two runs of the evening. Andrelton Simmons clubbed a go-ahead home run to finish off the four-run inning, bringing the Angels within four games of a wild card berth.

Dodgers 6, Braves 2: A modified delivery appears to be working wonders for Dodgers’ southpaw Rich Hill, whose resurgence proved instrumental to the team’s first win of the weekend. Hill lasted 6 1/3 innings — the fourth time he’s pitched into the sixth inning this season — and issued six hits, two runs and eight strikeouts as he improved to 7-4 on the year. Chris Taylor powered Hill’s efforts, padding the Dodgers’ one-run lead with a solo shot in the seventh inning and a bases-clearing triple in the eighth.

Mariners 6, Yankees 5 (10 innings): Aaron Judge packs a mighty punch with his home runs, and Saturday was no exception. The slugger produced his 32nd homer of the season, though this one didn’t find the crevices of Safeco Field quite as easily as Friday’s epic blast.

Judge’s penchant for dingers wasn’t quite enough to get the job done for the Yankees, however, and the teams found themselves at an impasse by the ninth inning. Nelson Cruz came through in the clutch, pushing the Mariners within a win of .500 after scoring Clint Frazier on a walk-off single — the first walk-off Seattle had seen since June 20.

Starling Marte to be activated today after PED suspension

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte will return from his 80-game PED suspension today. Yesterday he faced the press. He apologized for letting his team and the fans down, bus still says that he isn’t sure what substance got him suspended.

He tested poisitive for Nandrolone, but claims he did not inject himself with the steroid. He says that it was a matter of “not being careful enough,” in monitoring what he took while at home in the Dominican Republic in the offseason. He said, however, that he “respects” and “understands” whatever guff he takes from his teammates, the fans or the press.

The Pirates went 39-41 during Marte’s absence and are 45-48 overall. They’ve surged of late and, thanks to a lackluster NL Central this season, are nominally in contention, six games back of the Brewers. Marte was hitting .241 with two homers and seven RBIs in 13 games when he was suspended. He hit .304 with a home run and three RBIs in 12 minor league rehab starts. Marte had taken over in center field, moving Andrew McCutchen to left, but McCutchen has returned to center in Marte’s absence. He will remain there and Marte will play in left.