McCutchen-less Bucs figure out how to win

PITTSBURGH – Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

They beat the New York Mets 5-2 before another sellout crowd at PNC Park, and were able to get that result with Andrew McCutchen on the bench.

Manager Clint Hurdle chose to rest McCutchen in advance of today’s open date on the schedule, which gives him a full two days off.

Starling Marte returned to the lineup and played center field, with Josh Harrison starting in left.

The break is even longer for catcher Russell Martin, who sat for the second straight game. Chris Stewart filled in again.

The Pirates said Martin had general soreness, which led to the decision to hold him out for another game.

“Russ threw his body around (on Friday),” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We felt it was an opportunity to give him another day to recover. It’s a physically taxing position.”

Rookie right fielder Gregory Polanco might be a candidate for a day off, too. Polanco has run into the first tough stretch in his brief major league career.

He’s hitless in his last 12 at bats over three games, with two walks.

Hurdle indicated he would sit Polanco on Tuesday against Arizona to give him two full days off.

Future help?

Saturday’s game was a dreary 5-3 loss to the Mets, but there was one positive aspect.

Stolmy Pimentel worked four scoreless innings, allowing two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.

It’s no secret that the Pirates see Pimentel as a candidate for next year’s starting rotation, and games like Saturday’s demonstrate why the staff is high on his potential.

“Outstanding,” Hurdle said. “Another good outing. Swing and miss stuff. The split played, and the slider. There was nice finish to his fastball.”

It’s unlikely Francisco Liriano will be back next season, and Edinson Volquez is on a one-year contract, so the Pirates should have openings in their rotation.

Another step

Liriano threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before Sunday’s game.

Liriano is on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. The next step in his rehab will probably be a simulated game.

It does not appear his return is imminent.

Chance meeting

According to Hurdle, pitchers Jason Grilli and Ernesto Frieri bumped into each other at O’Hare Airport in Chicago after they’d been traded for each other.

Both players were connecting through Chicago on their way to join their new teams.

Grilli’s destination was Kansas City, the city Frieri had just left after the Los Angeles Angels traded him to the Pirates.

Hurdle said the two players had an unexpected meeting at the airport barber shop. Both had decided independently to spend some of their waiting time getting a haircut.

Plus size

Portly Bartolo Colon was the starting and losing pitcher for the Mets on Sunday.

Colon’s unconventional physique has launched a thousand quips on the nightly highlight shows. Hurdle says that emphasis on Colon’s size detracts from his success as a major league starter at age 41.

“People look at his pants size instead of his ability, and that’s a shame,” Hurdle said.