May 14, 2013
Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 3
Turning Point in the game: Andrew McCutchen caps a Pirates comeback with a 12th inning, opposite field home run.
Beating the teams you're supposed to beat is one of the hallmarks of a winning baseball club.
This season's struggling Milwaukee Brewers certainly fell into that category for the up-and-coming Pirates. But with a dismal record against the Brewers over the past several seasons, and having lost three of their first four games against them in 2013, the Pirates' ability to take care of business against lesser competition remained an enormous question mark heading into the teams' May 14 matchup at PNC Park.
With the score deadlocked at 3-3 in the 12th inning, a towering, opposite-field shot to right center field off the bat of the team's unquestioned leader, Andrew McCutchen, turned that question mark into an exclamation point.
Things got off to a rough start when the second batter of the game, Brewers shortstop Jean Segura, drilled a Jeff Locke pitch into the left field bleachers for a solo home run, getting the Brewers out to an early lead. The Pirates would go on to tie the game in the bottom half of the frame on a run-scoring ground out.
After each surrendered runs in the first, both Locke and Brewers starter Kyle Lohse settled in, but Milwaukee would break the tie in the bottom of the fourth, scoring a single run on a pair of doubles by Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez. The Brewers would add on the following inning, plating Norichika Aoki on a Segura groundout, after the speedy leadoff hitter had reached on an infield single and advanced to third on two Locke wild pitches.
The Pirates tied the game with single runs in the sixth and eighth innings, the latter coming on a sharply hit double down the left field line off the bat of catcher Russell Martin. After Jason Grilli struck out the side in the top of the ninth, the Bucs wasted an opportunity to walk off in the bottom half of the frame when Garrett Jones grounded into an inning-ending double play with two runners on base.
Leading off the 12th inning, McCutchen - hitless in his first six plate appearances - seized his chance to make a statement against the Pirates' nemesis, connecting on a 2-2 offering from reliever Mike Fiers that landed in the second row of the right center field seating area.
McCutchen sprinted out of the box upon contact and quickly made his way around the bases, raising his right fist in the air between first and second base.
"After the other two balls I hit, I wasn't taking anything for granted," he said. "I didn't know if it was going to go out or not when I hit it, so I just started running. Once I saw it was a home run, I just kept running."
McCutchen hit a drive to deep center field in the first inning with two runners on base that center fielder Carlos Gomez caught just in front of the fence. In the seventh, right fielder Norichika Aoki hauled in McCutchens drive to the 375-foot sign in right-center field.
"I thought both of them were gone but I guess it's the cool weather keeping the balls in the park," McCutchen said. "It's been a cool spring and the ball doesn't seem to be carrying anywhere. Summer is just around the corner so hopefully the weather will warm up and balls will start flying pretty soon."
As he approached his teammates waiting to mob him at home plate, McCutchen tossed his helmet and raised his arms skyward. The Pirates and Brewers would square off 14 more times, but there was a sense that things might be different this year.
Indeed, the dramatic win proved to be the turning point for the Pirates in the season series with the Brewers, as the Bucs would go on to win a total of 12 out of 19 meetings with Milwaukee.
On a side note, the May 14 game also featured one of the season's more bizarre moments: In the top of the 11th inning, home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth was forced to leave the game when the Brewers' Yuniesky Betancourt fouled off a pitch that lodged between Culbreth's mask and left shoulder, injuring his collarbone. He returned the following game to umpire at third base.