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McCutchen logs game-winning hit, continues to thrive in new role


BALTIMORE — Andrew McCutchen took one look around the Brewers’ clubhouse and felt right at home. 

It was April 6, the day after the Brewers departed Spring Training in Arizona and the day before they opened the season at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The team worked out at American Family Field in Milwaukee that afternoon, and McCutchen identified the location of his new locker. He found it fitting. 

“I made a joke and it’s actually not a joke, it’s reality,” McCutchen said Tuesday after capping a three-RBI game with the go-ahead RBI in the Brewers’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “My locker there is in the same place as my locker was in Pittsburgh. The locker right next to the bathroom. I walked in and it was like the same thing. 

“Man, that’s pretty cool. It kind of feels like home to me. It feels comfortable, relaxed. I feel like it’s a good fit and I plan on doing a little more damage here.” 

McCutchen did most of the Brewers’ damage on Tuesday, delivering a two-run double in the first inning and a tiebreaking single with two outs and two strikes in the seventh that sent Milwaukee to victory in its first night game of the season.

The Orioles’ decision to pitch to McCutchen with a lefty on the mound, two outs, the tying runner at third and left-handed-hitting Rowdy Tellez on deck may have been one of the items on their list of regrets. There was also an error charged to Baltimore shortstop Chris Owings on a pickoff attempt in the first inning that preceded McCutchen’s double for a 2-0 lead, and another error charged to starter Spenser Watkins in the third that not only explained how the Brewers’ Willy Adames scored from second base on a bouncer back to the pitcher, but also extended that inning for Hunter Renfroe’s first RBI with Milwaukee on a booming double.

Those runs erased a Baltimore lead built on Cedric Mullins’ grand slam in a second inning marred by the Brewers’ own regrets. Starter Eric Lauer issued a pair of two-out walks in the inning around a catcher’s interference call against Omar Narváez. Mullins promptly cashed in with a slam to the right-center-field seats.

It was still a 4-4 game in the seventh when Adames — who reached safely three times, scored three runs and made a sensational leaping catch in the bottom of the seventh to help the Brewers bridge the gap to Devin Williams and Josh Hader at the end of the game — started the go-ahead rally with a one-out double.

That prompted an Orioles call for left-hander Cionel Pérez, who was required to face three batters or finish the inning. He retired the left-handed hitter he was summoned to get, Christian Yelich, to bring up McCutchen, whose lefty-righty splits last season with Philadelphia were severe.

The Orioles opted to go after him anyway.

“I didn’t know if [Brewers manager Craig Counsell was] going to bring in a righty behind me, bring in Keston [Hiura] or somebody like that,” McCutchen said. “That was kind of my assumption. That’s what I was telling myself. Whatever it takes to be in that at-bat, that’s what I was trying to do. I was able to get the job done.”

Brad Boxberger pitched a scoreless seventh inning with help from Adames’ glove before Williams and Hader combined to put a slew of Orioles on the bases and strand them there for an all-around team win.

In a small sample, the 35-year-old McCutchen has made just the impact the Brewers were hoping for when they signed him a month ago to a one-year, $8.5 million contract to primarily serve as the designated hitter. With 21 plate appearances in the books, he has the team’s lowest strikeout rate (14.3 percent) and three doubles. He’s also been exactly the clubhouse presence he has been known to be over his long career.

“We’re embracing him right now,” Adames said. “Trying to learn from him. He brings that energy every day, and the way he plays the game, he’s always in the game and trying to help guys.”

On a white board coming into the visitors’ clubhouse in Baltimore was the word of the day: “Energy.” McCutchen is learning ways to keep his own energy high in the DH role.

“Do less. That’s it, do less,” he said. “A lot of trial and error for me, but after talking to some guys who did DH for some of their career, you find a formula that works for you. … It’s still a work in progress. It’s still early for me. But don’t overdo it, that’s the biggest thing.”

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