Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh

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The San Francisco Giants head to PNC Park to face the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend. It’ll be the first time Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh as a visitor. You have to figure he’ll get a pretty warm reception when he comes to the plate for the first time.

McCutchen, of course, starred for the Pirates for the first nine seasons of his career, winning the NL MVP Award in 2013 and, arguably, putting up a better season the following year when he came in third in the voting. He was, without question, the face of the franchise and a quite likable one at that while he wore the black and gold. The dude loved Pittsburgh so much he named his son, born last fall, Steel.

While a lot of former stars return to boos, it wasn’t like McCutchen chose to go. The Pirates traded him to the Giants on Jan. 15 for reliever Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. It was not a popular deal among the Pirate fan base, who saw the trade as the biggest in a series of moves they perceived to be aimed more at cutting payroll and improving the team’s bottom line than in trying to build a winning Pirates team.

Not that the Pirates have been bad this year. They’re 21-16, a game out of first in the NL Central, and head into the series winners of three in a row and four of their last five. The Giants, meanwhile, who traded for McCutchen in a “win-now” move, are 19-19 and just dropped four in a row to the Phillies. The best laid plans, etc. etc.

NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic spoke to McCutchen about his return to the Steel City. He certainly sounds eager to return. As for the fans: it should be a nice moment when the P.A. announcer calls out his name.

Brandon Crawford homers off brother-in-law Gerrit Cole

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You can’t pick your family and no one knows that better than Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. His sister Amy married Astros starter Gerrit Cole in November 2016, so the two players are brothers-in-law.

The two players have matched up against each other 18 times in the past, as Cole spent his first five seasons in the National League with the Pirates. Cole often won that battle, holding Crawford to four hits — all singles — in 18 plate appearances.

Crawford finally got the better of Cole on Tuesday night, hitting a line drive into the appropriately-named Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park for a two-run home run, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-2.