McCutchen pitches in for scammed softball team
Bucs center fielder pays for uniforms after girls never receive them from company
ST. LOUIS -- Andrew McCutchen comes up with the big hits and the big plays for the Pirates, but the center fielder doesn't have to be between the lines to come through in the clutch.
Pittsburgh's three-time All-Star stepped up after word got out that the 12-year-olds on a Florida girls softball team were scammed by a company that took their hard-earned money and never delivered their promised uniforms.
The Mulberry Lady Panthers had raised over $2,000 for the uniforms and paid in full to Sports 55, based in Maryland, when placing the order in December. According to a Lady Panther spokesperson, most of their order never arrived.
So McCutchen sprang for the entire amount the Lady Panthers needed for both home and road uniforms, complete with jerseys, pants, socks and cleats.
"I was once in that position as a kid who had to find ways financially to be able to play baseball," McCutchen said. "These girls worked hard to raise what they needed, and then it was swept out from under them. Hopefully they can recover their money from that company, but I contacted my rep at Nike, and we decided we were going to take care of their uniforms.
"It's the right thing to do. These girls are supposed to be on a field having fun, not worrying about if they can play or not because they don't have uniforms."
The order was placed with Nike on Tuesday, with McCutchen donating the necessary funds from his equipment deal.
Liriano available for Game 5 if Pirates need him
ST. LOUIS -- If Wednesday night's decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series goes long, or goes wrong for the Pirates, manager Clint Hurdle wants to be able to turn to stalwart left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole is the starter and the Bucs are counting on him to match or come close to his Game 2 performance -- six innings, one run and five strikeouts in a 7-1 win over the Cardinals. But if he struggles early or if the game goes deep into extra innings, there needs to be a plan.
That's why Hurdle made Liriano available, even though the lefty has had just two days' rest since his start in the Pirates' 5-3 Game 3 victory in Pittsburgh. Liriano threw 101 pitches in six innings -- allowing two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out five -- but didn't figure in the decision.
In making Liriano available, Hurdle also said he was saving veteran righty A.J. Burnett -- who was on regular rest, but didn't get the Game 5 start because he struggled in the NLDS opener and hasn't done well in St. Louis this year -- for Friday night's opening game of the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, should the Bucs win Wednesday night.
"Liriano could be available," Hurdle said. "And A.J. ... one of the reasons we didn't pitch him here [is] because some of the challenges, but he goes through an extensive routine to get ready. If we're going to put Liriano in play -- which we've decided if we have to, we will -- we're holding A.J. back for Game 1."
If Cole accounts for himself well and the game doesn't extend much beyond the ninth, Liriano won't be needed.
Should the Pirates need multiple innings out of a reliever, they can turn to righty Jeanmar Gomez, who hasn't pitched since throwing four innings in relief of Burnett in Game 1. Gomez gave up three hits and walked two, but the two runs charged to him were unearned. Beyond that, Tuesday's day off allowed even those who worked in Monday's Game 4 -- righty Vin Mazzaro for two pitches, lefty Justin Wilson for two innings and 25 pitches and righty Mark Melancon for one inning and 16 pitches -- to rest.
"Again, we have a pretty good setup with our bullpen, so it's not like I would be looking for Frank to come in and pitch the seventh inning or the eighth inning," Hurdle said. "We're more or less looking at Frank if something would happen to Cole for some unforeseen reason early, we'd play him extended innings."
Hurdle didn't name a Game 5 starter until after Game 4, but he saw no reason to withhold the plan that Burnett, a veteran who has been a key performer the last two years since arriving in a trade with the Yankees, would start the NLCS opener against the Dodgers.
Burnett is a well-documented 1-1 with an 8.10 ERA in his three starts at Busch Stadium this season, and he gave up seven runs in two innings and didn't retire a Cardinals batter in the third inning of the 9-1 loss in Game 1. However, Burnett gave up one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings of his only start at Dodger Stadium this season, yet he ended up with the decision in a 1-0 loss, when Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw and three relievers held Pittsburgh to two hits on April 6.
Rookie Cole impresses with 'edge' on the road
ST. LOUIS -- When Gerrit Cole took the mound in Wednesday night's ultimate Game 5 of the National League Division Series, his repertoire included something in addition to a fastball, curveball and changeup.
Same thing U2 has: An Edge. A competitive streak that takes him to a different level, in hostile environments or against marquee opponents.
Cole was getting both Wednesday, in Busch Stadium and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
"He is very competitive -- that has played well on the road for him this year," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said a couple hours before first pitch. "But this guy has had a bit of an edge ever since, I think, he started playing.
"And that's kind of what we've seen play out so far this season with him, more so on the road. At home, he's been competitive. On the road, he's been very, very good."
The rookie was 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA on the road during the regular season -- then pitched up to those numbers in his Game 2 victory here, holding the Cards to two hits through six innings.
"I think you also ... saw the matchups of all the starting pitchers he went against," Hurdle recalled, "a pretty impressive group that he kind of cut his teeth on this season."
Cole made the first three starts of his big league career opposite Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke and Jered Weaver. He beat them all. A late duel with Rangers sensation Yu Darvish brought out Cole's best -- a 1-0 victory in Arlington.
"He wants something," Hurdle said, "and when he shows up, he says, 'You know, basically I'm not leaving until I get what I came for.'"
First number, last word
.017: The National League's collective batting average off Cole's offspeed pitches in his last six starts entering Wednesday night's Game 5; it reflects a 1-for-58.
"The longer you go without a hit, the better the chances are you'll get one. So mathematically, these guys are due." -- Hurdle, on the top two men in his lineup, Starling Marte and Neil Walker, who took a combined 1-for-31 into Game 5
• Cole followed Seattle's Andy Benes (1995 American League Division Series) and Tampa Bay's David Price (2010 ALDS) as the third No. 1 overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft to start a winner-take-all postseason game. Price lost both of his starts, while Benes had a pair of no-decisions in two games that went into extra innings.
• At 23, Cole was attempting to become the youngest pitcher to win an ultimate game on the road since 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela, in Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS in Montreal.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.