One game of the 2011 season sticks out to Pittsburgh Pirates fans.
The Pirates lost 4-3 to the Atlanta Braves in a game which started on July 26 and didn’t end until the early morning hours of July 27 when a missed call at home plate allowed the winning run to score for the Braves.
MLB later acknowledged the call was missed by home plate umpire Jerry Meals.
Daniel McCutchen ended up being the losing pitcher that night but only after he pitched 5 1-3 innings and allowed just that one run at the end of the game. He said the atmosphere itself was a fun one.
“It was a lot of fun,” McCutchen said. “It was my day off. I’ve told the story a million times. We have a sheet up in the training room of the guys that are playing. Then it rolled around and we were going with me or position players. We were the visiting ballclub and we were trying to save (Joel) Hanrahan when we got the lead to close them down. He got the day off but I think he warmed up 10 or 12 times down there. The 13th inning rolls around and (pitching coach) Ray (Searage) says to me, `You’re all we got.’ I got out there it was just backyard baseball, just having fun.”
McCutchen was one of four members of the Pirates organization to stop in at WDDH 97.5 The Hound with Dennis D. Heindl and Rose Heindl as part of the Pirates Caravan. Joining him were manager Clint Hurdle, starting pitcher James McDonald and broadcaster John Wehner.
“It’s a lot of fun to see how spread out the fans are in Pennsylvania,” McCutchen said. “It’s really inspiring and great to meet some of them. This is what you dream your whole life to be a professional baseball player.”
He was drafted in the 13th round of the 2006 Amateur Draft by the Yankees and was traded to the Pirates in the summer of 2008. McCutchen came through the Pirates’ system as a starting pitcher but was converted into a reliever in August 2010. He detailed the adjustments made to that position.
“You have to be ready to pitch every day as a reliever,” McCutchen said. “As a starter, it’s once every five days. It’s very routine-oriented. I had to switch up as a reliever. I found a good routine that I liked and I stuck with it. If you have a bad outing, you can get them the next day. If you have a good outing, you can get on a roll and stay on that roll.”
Overall, McCutchen said the bullpen is an area of strength on the team with the depth of talent there.
“I knew how the bullpen works but I really got a first-hand glimpse this year of how valuable a guy can be if he can eat up three or four innings when we need him to,” McCutchen said. “It’s a long season and that can take a toll on arms even if they don’t get in the game, they have to get up and get warm.”
With the team finishing at 47-43 at the All-Star break, McCutchen noticed the excitement around the area.
“It was so much fun,” McCutchen said. “There was the Red Sox series, that next series there was just a buzz around the stadium. I remember a little girl came up to me and said 'I wear my Pirates stuff to school and no one tells me the Pirates stink anymore.' We made her day that way. It was great to see how the fans came out. Being in the big leagues and trying to win isn’t inspiration enough, with the fans, that can inspire anyone to be the best.”