They couldn’t rescue the National League from its second consecutive loss, but the Pittsburgh Pirates trio of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison and Tony Watson saw action in the annual MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Target Field in Minneapolis.
The American League prevailed 5-3 at the Twins’ five-year-old ballpark to clinch home-field advantage in the World Series. Angels outfielder Mike Trout claimed game MVP with a 2-for-3, two-RBI performance at the plate.
For all the discussion of whether super utilityman Harrison deserved to make the NL team, the real story from the Pittsburgh perspective was McCutchen’s election to the starting lineup – the first Pirate to be so honored since Jason Bay in 2006 at PNC Park.
NL manager Mike Matheny placed McCutchen at the top of the order, and the reigning league MVP delivered an infield single to lead off the exhibition. McCutchen smacked a hard grounder up the middle off Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez, but it was stopped by a diving Derek Jeter, playing in the final All-Star Game of his Hall of Fame career.
Jeter jumped to his feet and threw quickly, but McCutchen beat the toss to first base by a split-second. The four-time all-star then took second on a wild pitch and stole third before being stranded.
The NL rebounded from falling behind 3-0 with a two-spot in the second, although McCutchen popped out to center with a runner in scoring position, as Boston’s Jon Lester escaped the inning.
The score was 3-3 in the top of the fifth for McCutchen’s third and final at-bat, which ended when he grounded out to third against defending Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer of the Tigers. McCutchen played the first six frames in the field, handling one routine fly ball without an issue.
Harrison took over for Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez in left field in the sixth, while McCutchen ceded center to Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies. Harrison flied out to right to lead off the seventh with the NL down 5-3, as Royals ace reliever Greg Holland tossed a perfect inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Watson enjoyed his all-star debut, albeit short. The Pirates’ star lefty reliever induced White Sox slugger Jose Abreu to fly out to Harrison with his first pitch, sending Bucs manager Clint Hurdle to the mound to bring in Reds fireballer Aroldis Chapman.
Harrison is a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, but he had an opportunity to play heel in Minnesota when he batted with one out and the bases empty in the ninth against Twins closer Glen Perkins. Unfortunately for Harrison and the NL, Perkins got a swinging strikeout on his way to an easy final inning.
The Pirates (49-46) return to action Friday at PNC Park when the Rockies come to town for a three-game weekend series.