PITTSBURGH (AP) - Hitting was supposed to be the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ weakness coming into the season yet they lead the major leagues in home runs through the first 16 games of the season.
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
The Pirates have hit 23 homers despite allowing first baseman Justin Morneau and right fielder Marlon Byrd to leave as free agents last winter. What encouraged manager Clint Hurdle the most was that three of the four homers on Thursday night were of the multi-run variety.
“It’s good to know you can strike quickly but we need to hit a few more with men on base like we did tonight rather than just solos,” Hurdle said.
Of course, the Pirates would have more multi-run homers if they could improve upon a .304 on-base percentage.
“That has been priority No. 1 since the first day of spring training,” Hurdle said. “We need to raise the on-base percentage.”
Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter. It stared Pittsburgh’s nine-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings that was capped by Alvarez’s sixth of the year.
“That’s why baseball is a crazy game,” Harrison said. “One second, I didn’t the job done and then the next second I put us ahead with a home run.
“I don’t hit a lot of home runs but I do know if you hit the ball down the left field line (at PNC Park) that you have a chance,” he said. “I knew I hit it hard.”
McCutchen, last year’s NL MVP, hit a two-run homer in the first inning in his 57th at-bat.
Edinson Volquez (1-0) gave up two runs in seven innings for his first win with the Pirates, scattering eight hits.
“It’s a great feeling to get that first W for the Pittsburgh Pirates,” Volquez said. “That’s why they brought me here, to win games, so I feel like I did my job this time.”
Jonathan Lucroy and Scooter Gennett had two hits each for Milwaukee, which had won its first six road games. The Brewers have lost three of four since a nine-game winning streak.