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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.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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

Cardinals 11, Cubs 4: The Cubs finally dropped their first game following the All-Star break, snapping a six-game win streak in dramatic fashion as the Cardinals took Chicago’s bullpen for a ride in the eighth inning. Carl Edwards Jr. kicked off the rally with a double and three consecutive walks, helping the Cardinals to their first run of the inning with a bases-loaded walk. The Cards’ offense did the rest, taking the series opener after they piled on another eight runs to top the Cubs, 11-4.

Phillies 6, Brewers 1: The Brewers aren’t running away with the NL Central anymore, thanks to a skid that was extended to six games on Friday night. Aaron Nola held the club to one run in seven innings, striking out nine of 26 batters to notch his seventh win of the season. Matt Garza kept pace for five innings, but a late-game implosion gave the Phillies a four-run lead — and their 33rd win of the year.

Astros 8, Orioles 7: The Astros looked dominant for eight long innings, from Colin Moran’s first career triple and first career home run to a four-hit night for Yuli Gurriel. None of that seemed to matter in the bottom of the ninth, however, when the Orioles came roaring back with a five-run spread against James Hoyt and Chris Devenski. With two outs and Mark Trumbo at the plate, Ken Giles hung on to preserve the Astros’ lead with a four-pitch strikeout.

Marlins 3, Reds 1: The Reds finally caught a break against the Diamondbacks earlier this week, taking their first win of the second half on a 4-3 nail-biter. Friday saw a return to their slumping ways, with another close call during their series opener against the Marlins. Billy Hamilton put the club on the board with a sac fly in the third inning, but the offense couldn’t solve Jose Urena, who pitched 6 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball.

Mets 7, Athletics 5: Michael Conforto‘s second two-run homer proved the difference maker in Friday’s win. The center fielder took Clayton Blackburn in the third inning with a blast to center field, and returned in the seventh to pad the Mets’ lead with another two-run shot off of Frankie Montas:

Things weren’t all doom and gloom for the A’s: Marcus Semien logged four hits, tying a career-high mark, and the team rallied with RBI singles in the eighth to bring them within two runs of tying the game. Still, it wasn’t enough to close the gap — especially after losing Ryon Healy on a grisly infield hit.

Rangers 4, Rays 3 (10 innings): With all the trade rumors swirling around Texas hurler Yu Darvish, it’s hardly surprising that both the Cubs and Dodgers had scouts in attendance during Friday’s series opener. They couldn’t have picked a better outing to attend: Darvish was lights-out, tossing eight innings with three runs and five hits and striking out a season-high 12 batters.

Indians 13, Blue Jays 3: The Indians rebounded from a series loss to the Giants this week and took their first game against the Blue Jays with a stunning eight-run inning. After carrying a two-run lead against the Blue Jays through the first six innings, the club padded their lead with four consecutive RBI hits against Toronto lefty reliever Jeff Beliveau in the seventh. With a runner on first and one out, Cesar Valdez was brought in to relieve Believau, and instead gave up another three back-to-back RBI to bring the score to a lopsided 13-3.

Tigers 6, Twins 3: Victor Martinez only needed two home runs to carry the Tigers’ 44th win of the year and move them within six games of the division lead. His big moments were only slightly overshadowed by the loss of Miguel Cabrera, who was felled by a line drive in the fourth inning and left the game with a bruised collarbone. Austin Romine replaced the slugger at first base, going 0-for-2 as the bullpen combined for 3 1/3 scoreless frames to lock down the win.

Royals 7, White Sox 6 (10 innings): Yoan Moncada is off to an auspicious start with the White Sox after plating four runs on Friday, including a bases-loaded triple in the third inning.

It wasn’t enough to top the Royals, who came storming back in the 10th with Whit Merrifield’s walk-off sac fly, but Moncada still managed to set a season record during his dash from home plate to third base:

Pirates 13, Rockies 5: After 103 days, the Pirates are back over .500 again. Rookie first baseman Josh Bell carried the Bucs through their double-digit win, going 4-for-6 at the plate and driving in four runs with an RBI single in the first inning and a three-run double in the second. He wasn’t the only one turning heads, either:

The deep fly ball landed for Jhan Marinez‘s first base hit of the year and the first by a Pirates’ reliever since Wade LeBlanc smacked his first RBI single back in May.

Diamondbacks 6, Nationals 5: One bad start does not a bad pitcher make, but this one may have stung just a little too much. Max Scherzer kickstarted his fourth no-decision of the season with not one, not two, but three consecutive home runs in the first inning:

It’s the first time the Nationals’ ace has given up three homers since May 2016, when he issued a career-high four homers to the Cubs’ Tommy La Stella, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist. He allowed another RBI single and double before settling down, and issued three scoreless innings before making his exit in the bottom of the fifth. It wasn’t quite enough to salvage the game, however, as the Nats went on to lose in the bottom of the ninth on Brandon Drury’s walk-off single.

Red Sox 6, Angels 2: Chris Sale is pitching on another level right now. The Red Sox’ lefty took on the Angels during Friday’s series opener, mowing down nine of 24 batters en route to his 12th win of the year. One pitch — a 1-2 heater to catch Kole Calhoun swinging in the sixth — moved Sale into elite company:

The strikeout, Sale’s ninth and final whiff of the night, was also his 200th of the season. According to MLB.com’s Ian Browne and the Elias Sports Bureau, only three major league pitchers have whiffed 200+ batters by their 20th start of the year: Hall of Famer hurlers Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

Braves 12, Dodgers 3: Jamie Garcia’s fifth-inning grand slam was the centerpiece of the Braves’ win on Friday night, catapulting the team to a nine-run lead and giving them the cushion they needed to lock down their second win of the series.

Garcia’s antics weren’t the only thing powering the Braves’ efforts: Garcia plated his first runs of the night on a fielding error, Freddie Freeman went oppo-taco in the fifth and Tyler Flowers clubbed a three-run shot off of the Dodgers’ Grant Dayton. Dodgers fans, meanwhile, tried their best to derail everything by doing this:

Yankees 5, Mariners 1: Aaron Judge has mashed some impressive taters in his rookie year so far: the 400-footers, the base-clearing knocks, the game-winning blasts. This one ranks somewhere among his top home runs of the season, as it very nearly cleared the perimeter of Safeco Field — a feat made all the more astounding by the park’s pitcher-friendly dimensions.

The Mariners couldn’t recover after Judge’s homer or five solid innings from CC Sabathia, and have yet to produce more than one run per game in either of their back-to-back losses this series.

Padres 12, Giants 9 (11 innings): The seagulls that roost in AT&T Park have things to do and places to be, man. They don’t have time to wait around for an 11-inning marathon to reach its inevitable conclusion, nor do they have the patience to split center field territory with Denard Span:

Even a horde of low-flying gulls couldn’t keep the Padres at bay, however: George Kontos and Kyle Crick combined for back-to-back-to-back base hits, allowing San Diego to amass a three-run lead in the 11th and clinch their second win of a four-game set against the Giants.