The Pirates could be forgiven for wanting no part of any break, All-Star or otherwise.
Neil Walker went 5-for-5, Andrew McCutchen blasted two more home runs, and A.J. Burnett won his 10th game in Pittsburgh’s 13-2 blowout of San Francisco on Sunday at PNC Park.
That sent the Pirates, whose streak of 19 consecutive losing seasons is a professional sports record, into the break with a 48-37 record, their highest point above .500 since that 1992 season, which was the last time the Pirates had a winning record and the last time they made a playoff appearance. They’ve also won 22 of their past 33.
“It’s a great sendoff, for sure, for these fans to finish up the half like this,” said Walker, the Pittsburgh native. “We’re just getting started, though. Long way to go.”
Walker’s average was at .256 on June 26, but his two-week tear has it up to .291 and closer to his career norms. He doubled in his opening at-bat, hit his sixth home run -- which landed in the landscaping well beyond straightaway center - in the third, then roped singles in his next three at-bats. It was his second career five-hit game, the other coming in 2010.
“I feel like I’m getting locked in, feeling really good up there,” Walker said.
McCutchen capped an MVP-type first half with a two-run home run in the first inning to right-center, then hit a nearly identical shot in the seventh. He entered the break with a .360 average, best in the National League, as well as 18 home runs and 60 RBIs.
“It’s just fun to be a part of this,” McCutchen said. “Everybody’s out there doing their jobs, getting it done.”
McCutchen, one of two Pittsburgh All-Stars, was chosen Sunday as a replacement for the Home Run Derby Monday night in Kansas City, Mo. He said his girlfriend had to talk him into accepting.
“You look at the guys who are in the Home Run Derby and they’re guys who hit 40, 50 home runs,” said McCutchen, who hit a career-high 23 last season. “They’re big guys who can drive the ball 500 feet. I’m not the person who’s going to hit a ball 500 feet. I never thought I’d be in a Home Run Derby. Ever.”
San Francisco, in contrast to the home team, fell out of first place during a 1-5 road trip through Washington and Pittsburgh, the lone victory coming Friday. The Giants have lost seven of their past nine.
“We certainly didn’t want to go into the break like this, limping the way we did, but now it’s behind us,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It just wasn’t a good game all around, starting with the pitching, and we didn’t swing the bats very well again.”
Tim Lincecum’s season-long struggles continued. He lasted only 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs and seven hits in falling to 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA. For now, the Giants are standing behind the two-time Cy Young winner.
“I feel like it’s just small things here and there that I need to tinker with and consistently find that fastball location and that secondary location,” Lincecum said. “I just look at the second half as a fresh start.”
Pablo Sandoval’s two-run home run in the seventh accounted for San Francisco’s offense, but it was already 10-0 at that point.
Pittsburgh’s Casey McGehee was injured immediately after hitting a two-run single deep into the left-center gap, pulling up on the base paths with what the team described as a mildly strained left groin. There was no immediate word on whether he might be ready after the break.
Burnett allowed two runs and four hits over 6 1/3 innings and was feted with one of the loudest standing ovations for a pitcher in PNC Park’s history from the 28,954 on hand.
“Those fans bring this out of me,” Burnett said.
NOTES: Burnett (10-2) became the Pirates’ fifth pitcher in the past 25 years to achieve 10 wins by the break, joining Neal Heaton (1990), Randy Tomlin (1992), Bob Walk (1993) and Kevin Correia (2011). He held the Giants to two runs and four hits over 6 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 3.68. ... The Pirates’ 29-14 record at home, including 21-6 since May 12, is the best in the majors. ... ... The Giants’ Melky Cabrera, chasing McCutchen for the league batting lead, went 1-for-3 to close out at .353.