Hurdle gives McCutchen rare respite for finale

Hurdle gives McCutchen rare respite for finale

Hurdle gives McCutchen rare respite for finale
HOUSTON -- And on the 101st day, Andrew McCutchen rested.

The Pirates' center fielder finally got a partial day off on Sunday, sitting out the beginning of the finale against the Astros. McCutchen was called on to pinch-hit in the sixth inning of the Bucs' 9-5 loss to the Astros, popping out with the bases loaded.

The Majors' batting leader missed a couple of games in early May due to a stomach virus, so July 1 had been his only previous legitimate rest day.

Factor in that the National League All-Star and Home Run Derby participant didn't even have a restful All-Star Game break, and manager Clint Hurdle thought the time was right for a respite.

Starling Marte started in center, between left fielder Alex Presley and Garrett Jones in right.

"It was time for him to get a blow," Hurdle said of McCutchen, batting .369 after going 4-for-11 in the first three games of the series.

The Pirates will have an off-day on Thursday, between three-game sets in Chicago and Cincinnati. That will be their final lull prior to a stretch of playing 20 straight days through Aug. 22.

"I have plans for other guys [to rest] as we finish this trip and move into that 20-game stretch," Hurdle said.

The sample size is small, but Justin Germano, the Cubs' tentative starting pitcher on Monday, has been put on alert: In McCutchen's two return games, he has gone 5-for-7, with a home run and three RBIs.