PITTSBURGH - Andrew McCutchen did not know how he would feel when he finally stepped into the batter's box at PNC Park. As it turned out, the Pirates fans didn't even allow him to get that far.
A 90-second standing ovation for McCutchen's first at-bat back started as Gregor Blanco's leadoff fly ball to center was landing in Starling Marte's glove. McCutchen let it all in, calling the moment "intense."
"It's something to remember, for sure," he said. "I did my best to soak it all in. (Catcher Francisco) Cervelli did a good job of just giving me that moment. I told the two of them (Cervelli and starting pitcher Jameson Taillon) I was ready to go, but he shook his head no. I was able to step back out and be in that moment. There was great emotion there.
"These fans came and that says a lot. I appreciate them, always have, always will."
The fans gave McCutchen such a prolonged ovation that Cervelli moved between the plate and the mound to let it play out. The Giants would have been better off had he never gotten back into his crouch to restart the game.
It was all downhill from McCutchen's ovation, the first of a half-dozen on this night for the former face of the franchise. The failures were universal. The lineup struck out 14 more times and went 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position. Andrew Suarez gave up five earned in four innings, continuing a streak of futility for the rotation. Jose Valdez made his debut and gave up a long homer. Tony Watson returned to Pittsburgh, as well, and gave up a three-run shot after allowing one run in his first 15 appearances.
Even McCutchen wasn't spared. He received a standing ovation before every at-bat and watched a tribute video on the scoreboard before the bottom of the first, but he had just one hit in five at-bats and grounded out with the bases loaded.
"It's pretty apparent we haven't been playing our best baseball the last five games," he said. "We've just got to show up tomorrow and be ready to go. This night, just flush it down the toilet and be ready to go tomorrow."
The Giants need to flush the last five. They've been outscored 43-10 while losing to the Phillies and Pirates. The starting staff, without the two co-aces, has been hit particularly hard. Suarez had pitched well, but gave up a pair of homers Friday, joining the chorus. Over the five losses, the starters have allowed 23 runs in 22 innings.
"It's starting pitching," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's how you get on a roll or have struggles. That's usually what's happening, your starters are going through a rut, and that's what's happening with us right now."