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PHI@PIT: McCutchen wins it with a walk-off single

PITTSBURGH -- What does it say again on all those Clint Hurdle-designed Pirates T-shirts? Oh, yes: "Finish."

How is this for finishing: The Bucs have played 28 innings this young season, and have had a lead after exactly two of them.

They have also won two games of the season-opening three-game series with the Phillies. Despite being pretty much throttled by three members of Philadelphia's world-class rotation, who among them allowed nine hits in 19 innings.

But those are starting pitchers. The Pirates have the trademark on finishing, which they did on Sunday in front of 19,856 fans when Andrew McCutchen's 398-foot single off the base of PNC Park's center-field fence gave them a 5-4 walk-off win over the Phillies.

"We preached it all Spring Training. It's all about finishing," McCutchen said. "Now we've got to go from there."

McCutchen had come up with two outs in a 4-4 tie to face David Herndon with pinch-runner Josh Harrison on third base -- the eighth baserunner he'd already seen from the batter's box this season, and the first one he drove in.

His drive over center fielder Shane Victorino's head on a full-count pitch culminated a frenetic and opportunistic rally from a deficit that had grown to 4-1 on Juan Pierre's two-run single off Jared Hughes in the seventh.

To a team that to that point had scored three runs in 25 innings, the hole looked like the Grand Canyon.

But a couple innings after Pedro Alvarez's first homer -- and hit -- of the season had loosened starter Vance Worley's grip, the Pirates turned a gaffe by Phillies first baseman Ty Wigginton into two runs to get close.

Matt Hague then turned his first Major League hit -- a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth -- into a tie, and by then destiny appeared to be the Pirates' date.

"We know we have to play in that gritty style to win games," said Hurdle.

He had sent Hague, who had no big league hits and only three big league at-bats, to hit for the Great Hyped Hope, Alvarez, with two on and two out and left-hander Antonio Bastardo on the hill.

"I just think he's at the point where he can give us that good at-bat," Hurdle said of the rookie. "He's not afraid to hit with two strikes. He's not afraid to take a pitch early in the count. He's not afraid to take a bad swing, and forget all about it on the next swing."

Hague didn't have to worry about any of that. He took one ball from Bastardo, then arched a single into left.

"Not the hardest-hit ball, but I'll take it," Hague said. "It was fun. I just tried to put a good at-bat together, and luckily found a hole."

The opportunistic seventh-inning rally had gotten the Bucs close. They took advantage after one of baseball's most mundane plays backfired on the Phillies as they sat on a 4-1 lead: As Alvarez struck out for the second out of the inning, the ball slightly eluded catcher Brian Schneider, who quickly retrieved it and made the toss to first base.

But Wigginton let the ball kiss off his glove webbing. Alvarez was safe on Wigginton's error. After Michael McKenry flied to right for the second out, McGehee delivered a double to score Alvarez, then scored himself on Alex Presley's single to cut the deficit to 4-3.

"You don't see that play botched very often. To Pedro's benefit, he was heads-up enough to hustle down the line, get them a little frantic," Neil Walker said. "That was two runs and the ballgame. A huge play."

"You've got to make them throw the ball, because anything can happen," Alvarez said. "I'm just glad I was running."

Both of those runs were unearned -- as was the pair the Phillies had scored in the top of the inning, on the Pierre two-run single set up by Walker's error.

The Pirates had gotten on the board when Alvarez's homer, his first hit of the young season, in the fifth halved the Phillies' early 2-0 lead.

It was unquestionably Alvarez's best crank of 2012. Not only were both of his Grapefruit League homers opposite-field shots, he seldom pulled a ball of any kind. He pulled this one 430 feet.

For the third time in as many games, the Bucs fell behind when the Phillies scored in the first on an RBI double by Hunter Pence.

The next time he confronted Bucs starter James McDonald, Pence homered to one of the deepest parts of PNC Park, delivering the left-center shot that made it 2-0 just to the right of the Phillies' bullpen.

Almost immediately after Alvarez had gone to bat for him, McDonald returned the favor. Alvarez's wild throw on Pierre's leadoff bunt single in the sixth put a big insurance run on second with none out, and Pierre carried it to third on Victorino's sacrifice bunt, with still only one away.

However, McDonald denied the Phillies' opportunity to score on an out by fanning Jimmy Rollins, and after intentionally walking tormentor Pence, also bent a called third strike by Jim Thome to end the threat.

That was the last pitch of the day for McDonald, who kept up with his rotation predecessors by allowing four hits and two runs in his six innings.

Worley was also done after six, having allowed five hits and a run. He was the weak link in Philadelphia's season-opening trio -- Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee gave up a total of five hits in their combined 13 innings.

No matter. The Pirates finished taking two of the three. Comments