McCutchen impressive in debut

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CINCINNATI — Daniel McCutchen turned in a solid major league debut today, especially considering he gave up a home run to the first batter he faced.

“He settled in and threw the ball really well after that,” manager John Russell said. “He was aggressive. His changeup really worked well for him. His fastball command was really good. I enjoyed watching him pitch. It was fun.”

McCutchen, who got a no-decision in the 4-3 loss, worked six innings and allowed three runs on five hits. The right-hander retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.

Reds rookie Drew Stubbs, who was called up from the minors 12 days ago, homered off McCutchen in the first inning. The two played against each other in college — McCutchen at Oklahoma, Stubbs at Texas. “There’s some of that OU-Texas rivalry in there,” McCutchen said. “I kind of shook that one off, got it out of the way, and tried to compete out there. Everyone who gave me advice said, ‘Don’t try to do too much. Don’t change anything. Do the same thing that got you here.’ In the first inning, I had the jitters going. But after that, I pitched exactly as I’ve been pitching: fastball, changeup, slider and trying to make them put the ball in play.”

When McCutchen was with Triple-A Indianapolis, he faced Stubbs, Drew Sutton, Darnell McDonald, Adam Rosales and Craig Tatum — all of whom were promoted from Louisville to the Reds. “There are a lot of them,” McCutchen said. “That was good. We had a good idea of (how to pitch against) them.”

• Andrew McCutchen’s 12-game hitting streak was snapped in the first game today.

• Seattle Times columnist Jim Moore apologizes, in a way, for an earlier column he wrote which pooh-poohed Ian Snell’s battle with depression.

• Lineups for tonight’s second game of the doubleheader:

PIRATES (53-76) — 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Steve Pearce 1b, 6. Brandon Moss lf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Ramon Vazquez 3b, 9. Paul Maholm lhp

REDS (57-73) — 1. Drew Stubbs cf, 2. Paul Janish ss, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Brandon Phillips 2b, 5. Scott Rolen 3b, 6. Jonny Gomes rf, 7. Darnell McDonald lf, 8. Corky Miller c, 9. Johnny Cueto rhp

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Meloan DFA’ed

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CINCINNATI – Right-hander John Meloan was designated for assignment to make room for Daniel McCutchen on the 40-man roster. Meloan was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay’s organization on Aug. 12 and sent to Triple-A Indianapolis. Meloan is 0-0 with a 4.57 ERA in 41 games this season.

• Jeff Karstens (lower back) tossed two hitless innings last night in his first rehab outing with Indianapolis. He struck out three of the eight batters he faced.

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Plenty of good seats available

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CINCINNATI – The gates are open at Great American Graveyard … er, Ballpark. From my perch in the second row of the press box, I can spot exactly 22 fans in the seats. Maybe they’re all waiting for the nightcap of today’s doubleheader.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

PIRATES (53-75) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones 1b, 4. Andy LaRoche 3b, 5. Brandon Moss rf, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Jason Jaramillo c, 9. Daniel McCutchen (major league debut) rhp

REDS (56-73) – 1. Drew Stubbs cf, 2. Drew Sutton 2b, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Scott Rolen 3b, 5. Jonny Gomes rf, 6. Wladimir Balentien lf, 7. Adam Rosales ss, 8. Craig Tataum c, 9. Kip Wells (0-3, 5.85) rhp

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Lincoln to World Cup, Julio added, Bixler demoted

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MILWAUKEE – Some postgame odds and ends from a lost weekend at Miller Park:

• Brad Lincoln will replace Daniel McCutchen on the Team USA roster for the World Cup. Lincoln, two years removed from Tommy John surgery, went a combined 7-7 with a 3.37 ERA this year for Triple-A Indianapolis and Double-A Altoona. He was the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2006.

• Jorge Julio was signed a minor league free agent and assigned to Indy. Julio was 0-1 with a 5.96 ERA in 19 relief outings for Triple-A Durham before being released Aug. 2. Julio, 30, notched 99 saves (with eight different teams) in nine seasons in the majors.

• Brian Bixler was sent back to Indy after today’s 4-1 loss against the Brewers. That will clear a spot on the active roster for Daniel McCutchen, who Monday will make his major league debut. The Pirates still must drop somebody from the 40-man roster and add McCutchen.

• The Pirates have lost 21 straight games at Miller Park. I’m still having trouble getting my brain around that stat. My colleague Jen Langosch, who began covering the Pirates for mlb.com in May 2007, has NEVER seen them win a game here.

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Daniel McCutchen will debut Monday

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MILWAUKEE – Right-hander Daniel McCutchen will make his major league debut Monday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader against the Reds.

The callup means McCutchen will withdraw from Team USA’s roster for the World Cup. “We wouldn’t call him up just to make one start,” manager John Russell said Sunday. “We want him to pitch here.”

Russell estimated the Pirates will need to fill six or seven spot starts over the final five weeks of the season. It’s still possible the Pirates could go with a six-man rotation in September.

McCutchen went 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis.

• Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

PIRATES (53-73) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones 1b, 4. Ryan Doumit c, 5. Lastings Milledge lf, 6. Brandon Moss rf, 7. Andy LaRoche 3b, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Ross Ohlendorf (11-8, 4.10) rhp

BREWERS (62-66) – 1. Felipe Lopez 2b, 2. Craig Counsell 3b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGehee 3b, 6. Jody Gerut cf, 7. Jason Kendall c, 8. Frank Catalanotto rf, 9. Jeff Suppan (5-9, 5.38) rhp

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Leadership?

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MILWAUKEE – GM Neal Huntington this afternoon shed a little – but only a little – light on Ryan Doumit’s benching midway through last night’s game. Huntington indicated he has not taken an active role in the situation. “It’s something that (manager John Russell) and Ryan are handling,” Huntington said. “I’m completely supportive of what JR feels is appropriate (to do) going forward.”

Neither Russell nor Doumit elaborated on what happened in the dugout last night. It may have been sparked by Doumit’s failure to run hard on a fly ball to center field in the fifth inning. It could have been something that’s built as Doumit sulked about the wave of trades last month.

“When I played and guys got traded, it’s usually a one- or two-day thing and then you move on,” Russell said. “You’ve got to be able to turn the page, and I think our guys have done that.”

One of the first stories I wrote in spring training this year concerned management’s hope that Doumit would emerge as more of a leader this season. This afternoon, I asked Huntington if he was satisfied with the leadership of Doumit, specifically.

Huntington’s response: “Given the (trades), we are looking for some guys to step forward. As you look at Paul (Maholm), Zach (Duke), Matt (Capps) and Ryan, they’re entering their fourth or fifth years of service. Ramon (Vazquez) is a veteran. We do need some leadership to come from somewhere. Ramon has stepped into that. We have some players who are at the point in their careers when they need to step up, they need to be the guys who establish and reinforce how we do things.”

• Lineups for tonight’s game (updated with Brewers info):

PIRATES (53-73) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Andy LaRoche 3b, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Steve Pearce 1b, 8. Luis Cruz ss, 9. Kevin Hart (4-3, 4.14) rhp

BREWERS (62-66) – 1. Felipe Lopez 2b, 2. Craig Counsell 3b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Mike Cameron cf, 6. Frank Catalanotto rf, 7. Jason Kendall c, 8. Alcides Escobar ss, 9. Yovani Gallardo (12-10, 3.51) rhp

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Doumit benched again

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MILWAUKEE — Catcher Ryan Doumit is not in the lineup tonight against the Brewers. Doumit was benched last night in the fifth inning after a squabble in the dugout with manager John Russell.

After the game, no one commented publicly about the situation. “It’s between Ryan and myself,” is all Russell had to say. Perhaps someone will be a bit more forthcoming this afternoon.

• Last night’s 8-6 loss was the Pirates’ 19 consecutive loss at Miller Park, which tied a major league record.

• The first game (1 p.m.) of Monday’s day-night doubleheader against the Reds will not be televised. The 7 p.m. game will be on Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh. On today’s notes sheet, Paul Maholm is listed as the starter for both games, as the team is not yet ready to announce who (either Phil Dumatrait or someone called up from the minors) will get one of the starts.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES (53-73) — 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Andy LaRoche 3b, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Steve Pearce 1b, 8. Luis Cruz ss, 9. Kevin Hart (4-3, 4.14) rhp

BREWERS (62-66) — TBA 9. Yovani Gallardo (12-10, 3.51) rhp

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Doumit sent to the bench

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MILWAUKEE — Catcher Ryan Doumit was benched by manager John Russell in the fifth inning of Friday’s 8-6 loss against the Brewers.

Doumit was replaced by Jason Jaramillo to start the bottom of the fifth inning.

“It’s between Ryan and myself,” Russell said tersely. “He’s not hurt.”

Russell refused to say whether Doumit will play tonight. Doumit declined to speak with reporters.

After the game, Russell had a brief, closed-door meeting with general manager Neal Huntington.

Doumit went 0 for 3, including grounding into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the first inning. He bounced into a fielder’s choice in the third and flew out to center in the fifth before being replaced.

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Alvarez out with a bang

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MILWAUKEE — In case you missed it, Pedro Alvarez went out with a bang Thursday night in what likely was his final game at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona. He homered twice to lead Double-A Altoona past Trenton, 9-4.

The Curve play this weekend at Erie. Monday, Alvarez will join Team USA for the World Cup in Europe.

The Pirates’ top draft pick last year, Alvarez has 26 homers — tops among all players in the organization this season. It was his first double-homer game at Double-A level (he last did it June 16 for Class A Lynchburg).

Alvarez will press for a big league job during spring training. At the very least, he should begin 2010 at Triple-A.

• The next time the Pirates trade for a player who soon turns up with an injury, remember this: Nyjer Morgan (hand), Freddy Sanchez (shoulder), Jack Wilson (hamstring) and Nate McLouth (hamstring) all are on the disabled list. Morgan is done for the year. Xavier Nady (Tommy John surgery) won’t be back until sometime next year. Damaso Marte has been bumped up and mostly ineffective since being traded to the Yankees.

• Runs created (RC), a stat invented by Bill James, is a rather accurate gauge of how many runs a batter produces. The bare-bones formula is on-base percentage divided by total bases. There also are other versions that include stolen bases, grounded into double plays, and so on.

Lee Sinins of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia takes that notion a step further with runs created above average (RCAA), which computes a player’s RC compared to the league average. Runs saved above average is a similar stat for pitchers.

According to Sinins, the Pirates rank 12th in the National League with a RCAA of minus-37 and 12th in the league with a RSAA of minus-37.

The NL individual leader in RCAA is — who else? — Albert Pujols (64), followed by Prince Fielder (51) and Chase Utley (49). The Pirates’ top five are Garrett Jones (18), Andrew McCutchen (11), Nate McLouth (six), Delwyn Young (six) and Freddy Sanchez (two).

The NL’s top pitcher in RSAA is Tim Lincecum (38), followed by Dan Haren (37) and Matt Cain (35). The Pirates’ leaders are Zach Duke (16), Evan Meek, John Grabow and Sean Burnett (four apiece), and Joel Hanrahan, Jesse Chavez and Steven Jackson (two apiece).

• Because the Pirates scored 10 runs over the three-game series against Philadelphia, 2,500 left and right field box seat tickets for each game the Sept. 4-6 series against St. Louis are on sale for $14 apiece. The $10 discount is due to the “You score as the Pirates score” promotion.

• Lineups for tonight’s game:

PIRATES (53-72) — 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Delwyn Young 2b, 3. Garrett Jones rf, 4. Andy LaRoche 3b, 5. Ryan Doumit c, 6. Lastings Milledge lf, 7. Steve Pearce 1b, 8. Luis Cruz ss, 9. Zach Duke (10-11, 3.38) lhp

BREWERS (61-66) — 1. Felipe Lopez 2b, 2. Jason Bourgeois rf, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Prince Fielder 1b, 5. Casey McGehee 3b, 6. Mike Cameron cf, 7. Jason Kendall c, 8. Alcides Escobar ss, 9. Manny Parra 8-10, 6.54)

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Pirates nip Phils on late homer

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Garrett Jones blasted a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and the Pirates beat the Phillies, 3-2, Thursday night at PNC Park.

The Pirates won for only the third time in 60 games this year when trailing after seven innings.

The Pirates had managed nothing other than Andrew McCutchen’s leadoff homer against Phillies rookie J.A. Happ (10-3), trailing 2-1 entering the eighth.

But Ronny Cedeno lined a pinch-hit single to open the inning and after McCutchen and Delwyn Young flied out to center, Jones drove Happ’s pitch over the center-field wall for a 3-2 lead.

Denny Bautista (1-0), who pitched two innings of scoreless relief, earned the win and Matt Capps, who has struggled so mightily against the Phillies this year, pitched the ninth to earn his 24th save.

McCutchen went 2 for 4 and Steve Pearce was 2 for 3 for the Pirates.

Jimmy Rollins went 3 for 4 and Paul Bako homered for the first-place Phillies, who lost for only the fourth time in their past 16 games.

The Pirates finished their homestand at 7-2 on the heals of a 3-17 skid.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton allowed two earned runs on five hits over six innings. He struck out six to match his career-high, walked four, and needed 106 pitches. But he needed to throw 106 pitches, a number he has surpassed only twice in his previous 27 career starts.

It was Morton’s second effective start since allowing 10 earned runs in one-plus innings of the Pirates’ 17-2 loss at Wrigley Field.

Happ, trying to become the first Phillies rookie to win 11 games since Bob Walk in 1980, entered the game with the best road ERA in baseball (1.72). He showed why he is the likely front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year, allowing three earned runs on seven hits over eight innings. The 26-year-old left-hander struck out four and walked two.

Before Jones’ 15th home run of the season, the Pirates had advanced only one runner past first base in the third through seventh innings.

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first on Ryan Howard’s run-scoring fielder’s choice, but McCutchen drove a leadoff homer to deep center off Happ to tie the score at 1-1. It was McCutchen’s eighth home run of the season — second most on the team — and his third leadoff homer.

Paul Bako’s one-out solo home run off Morton in the second put the Phillies up 2-1.

By John Grupp

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