As the Pittsburgh Pirates work to stay above .500, designated hitter Andrew McCutchen is poised to hit a milestone or two in the ongoing weekend series against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
McCutchen was the face of the Pittsburgh franchise earlier in his career. He is a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger winner and the 2013 National League MVP.
Now he is back with the Pirates after spending five years with four other teams. McCutchen doesn't man center field as he did earlier, mostly serving as the DH, but he has been feted by Pittsburgh fans and has expressed warm feelings about being back.
In the Pirates' series-opening, 7-5 win on Friday, McCutchen went 2-for-4 with two singles. That leaves him three hits shy of 2,000 for his career. He is also one double away from 400 and five homers away from 300.
"If I stay healthy, I'm going to reach all of them," McCutchen told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "That's the way I look at it -- stay healthy throughout the season and I'll reach all of those. ... It'll happen, and I'll celebrate when it does."
While Pittsburgh is celebrating a long-time veteran, the Cardinals are embracing a rising star.
Jordan Walker, the organization's top-rated prospect, was recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Friday, started in right field and went 1-for-5.
Walker began the season with St. Louis and tied a big-league record for players 20 or younger with a 12-game hitting streak to start his career. Eventually, he was sent to Memphis to work on his game and because the Cardinals had a glut of outfielders. Walker turned 21 last week.
His call-up came as St. Louis put Lars Nootbaar (back) on the 10-day injured list a couple days after listing him as day-to-day.
That means the Cardinals' starting outfield on Friday consisted of Walker and two converted infielders, Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan.
"That's baseball," St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. "You figure it out."
On Saturday, St. Louis left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-6, 4.48 ERA) and Pittsburgh right-hander Luis L. Ortiz (1-2, 4.35) are expected to start.
Montgomery is tied for the team lead with five quality starts but is 0-6 with a 5.03 ERA over his past nine starts. Most recently, Montgomery allowed two runs in five-plus innings against the Cleveland Guardians in a no-decision on Sunday.
"Just started finding a little momentum," Montgomery said. "Just kind of attacking hitters. Got in good counts and just got some quick outs. Much better curveball. Changeup is getting there. Step in the right direction.
"I've just got to keep throwing. I can only control so much of (whether I get wins). Going to keep going out there and keep us in it."
Montgomery is 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh.
Ortiz, who lost his first two starts of the season, picked up his first major league win on May 22 against the Texas Rangers, then followed with a no-decision his last time out, on Sunday at Seattle.
Against the Mariners, Ortiz gave up three runs on five hits in five innings. He walked four and struck out six.
Ortiz has faced the Cardinals once, when he gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning and took a loss on Oct. 1, 2022. Saturday will be a rematch, as Montgomery started got the win in that contest after allowing two runs in six innings.
--Field Level Media