Andrew McCutchen wasn’t hit by a pitch for the first time Saturday. In fact, it was the 48th time in his career and eighth this season.
This time, it forced him out of the game in the first inning.
But whether the first or 48th time, getting hit isn’t an enjoyable experience.
Julio Teheran threw a fastball high and tight to McCutchen in the first inning. The 91 MPH two-seamer got away from him and connected with the back of McCutchen’s left elbow as he tried to turn away and absorb the blow.
He stayed on the field for a few moments before walking down into the dugout. After waiting to see if the pain would subside, McCutchen knew there was no point in trying to stay in the game.
“I try to give it a little bit of time and normally it wears off after a little bit but this one was a pretty persistent and didn’t go away,” McCutchen said. “I knew trying to grip a bat would be nearly impossible.”
The loss of the Pirates superstar did not only frustrate McCutchen, but the rest of the Pirates and also the 36,417 on hand Saturday afternoon.
“I’m not the only one ticked off,” McCutchen said. “We’re all ticked off. It’s not just me. It’s anyone that gets hit and comes out of the game. That’s something we don’t like.”
To their credit, the Pirates followed with five runs off Teheran in the first and went on to beat the Braves 8-4 Saturday. Starling Marte moved from left field to center and seemed to relish the opportunity to be the man in the middle.
“He’s a very gifted center fielder,” Hurdle said. “When he goes out there, I think there’s a feel good that’s attached to it that lets him step his game up from time to time.”
Marte finished 3-for-4 with a RBI and three runs scored.
But back to McCutchen, there was no issue of intent. Teheran hadn’t thrown his two-seam fastball yet and the pitch just got away from him.
“I was trying to get in there and I know you can make a mistake with a hitter like that,” Teheran said. “I didn’t know that my two-seamer was moving that much so it was the first one I threw in the game. I feel bad that I hit him.”
Pitchers are forced to pitch McCutchen inside. Anything else really isn’t an option if teams want to get McCutchen out when he steps in the batter’s box.
When an average pitcher with average command tries to throw on the inner half of the plate, incidents like Saturday’s are bound to happen.
That doesn’t make it any more palatable for McCutchen, despite knowing the daunting task facing the men on the mound.
“I hate getting hit,” McCutchen said. “Worse than that I guess pitchers don’t like to get their ERA ran up with a fastball up over the middle of the plate and me be able to do damage with that either. I’m sure they’d rather hit me.”
McCutchen would much rather do damage, especially in the interest of his health.
X-rays on McCutchen’s elbow returned negative but he will be re-evaluated Sunday. He said he has a bruise right now.
“I don’t feel too comfortable with it,” McCutchen said. “I feel restricted.”
McCutchen understands his dilemma is a part of baseball. But also that nothing is likely to change, as nothing changed when he missed two weeks worth of games amidst a playoff race last season with an injury that cropped up shortly after he was hit in the same area by a pitch in retaliation.
“It takes someone having a broken leg or a bloody face for them to take steps,” McCutchen said. “I mean just because you’re not injured, it still hurts.”
And even if it still hurts, some still expect players to play.