Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mack: Noise On The North Shore

Only Noises As Loud As Ovation For Cutch Come From Bucs' Bats

Chris Mack
May 12, 2018 - 1:04 am

Let’s be honest, there isn’t much that could distract from Andrew McCutchen’s homecoming Friday night at PNC Park.

The roars of the largest crowd at PNC Park during the 2018 season started to swell upon the first sighting of the former face of the franchise, and didn’t die down all night.

A pregame mention of his name from ballpark host Joe Klimchak drew an ovation.

The announcement of his name during the starting lineups drew an ovation.

His first appearance at the plate in the top of the 1st inning drew a 90-second cacophony that only relented when Francisco Cervelli decided to crouch behind the plate.

And so it went, every time that McCutchen’s name was mentioned it was followed by an ovation, including when he doubled down the left field line in the 7th inning.

The fans even booed home plate umpire Chris Segal when he had the nerve to ring McCutchen up for a called third strike his first time up.

The only noises that seemed to even approach the decibel level the applause for McCutchen drew were the cracks of Pirate bats as they slammed 15 hits, eight for extra bases – four of them home runs – in an 11-2 rout of the San Francisco Giants.

And that may have provided the irony on a night when one of the most surprising offenses in baseball exploded yet again: The Pirates have scored 36 runs in their last four games and their 195 through 38 games are the 4th most in baseball and 2nd in the National League, and are doing it all without the man who was the cornerstone of their offense for the past nine seasons.

Perhaps the 34,720 in attendance and all those watching on TV were able to appreciate more than just a bittersweet return for McCutchen to his adopted hometown on a cool spring night. Maybe, just maybe, they were able to recognize for the first time since they looked up from the end of a Penguins’ playoff run and the haze of a post-draft Steelers’ QB drama, that the team in front of them is for real.

The current centerfielder, the guy who was so tentative in taking over the position when McCutchen was still around, went 3-for-5 with a two-run home run. The possible future face of the franchise added a home run that screamed out of the park at 110 mph. Another pair of longballs, plus a 402-foot double by one of the low-key returns in the offseason trades that had fans seething, launched the Pirates to their 4th win in a row.

It’s also the club’s best 38-game start since going 23-15 in their N.L. East Championship season of 1992.

This isn’t a hot week against the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds we’re talking about anymore.

This isn’t a nice homestand bolstered by good, young pitchers feasting on cold, sub-freezing bats.

This is what we can start to call statistically significant.

A game back of St. Louis in the Central, the Pirates have won each series they’ve played against teams in their division. They’ve done it with offense, no less; the sexy, Christie Brinkley-in-a-red Corvette kind of offense that drives modern contenders.

That they’ve done it without McCutchen is bittersweet, to be sure.

That they’re doing it at all though, is worth paying attention to and worth cheering for; almost as loudly as you may have cheered McCutchen’s return.

Even if you have a hard time hearing yourself over the crack of the bats.