Andrew McCutchen has been down this road before, playing in three consecutive Wild Card games as a Pirate in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He is not a big fan of the format.
“When do we ever play one game during the season?” he said on Tuesday before the Yankees worked out in advance of Wednesday’s American League Wild Card game against the Athletics. “I don’t know. It’s just kind of tough to know you’re having one game to decide who goes home.”
It probably does not help that McCutchen’s teams were 1-2 in his previous three tries, losing the two most recent Wild Card games by a combined score of 12-0. (McCutchen batted .400, going 4-for-10, in the three games.)
But none of that means the former National League MVP is not appreciative of this situation after being traded from the Pirates to the Giants before this season, then traded again to the Yankees at the end of August.
Far from it. After a decade in the big leagues, this is no time to take anything for granted.
“It doesn’t get much better than this, honestly,” he said. “I could easily be home right now, just be at the house flipping through the channels, watching baseball games. I’ve done that the past couple of years. So to be here, I’m enjoying it and I’m pretty humbled to be here.”
McCutchen has been a welcome addition to the Yankees in his 25 games, scoring 18 runs and driving in 10, with five home runs. He said he has enjoyed the experience, even though it has presented personal challenges.
He and his wife, Maria, welcomed a son, Steel, in late November. Criss-crossing the country with a baby has been a challenge.
“Learning how to be a parent and dealing with trades and moving and going from one place to another that you’re not familiar with, on top of having a kid, and the sleep training, oh, man, it’s a lot,” he said, smiling. “It definitely was challenging for me, for my wife, dealing with all of this.
“But at the end of the day I believe we did a good job handling it and at the end of the day it’s awesome, because it’s not something that’s always going to happen in your career. So I choose to look at it in the sense that it’s something I’ve enjoyed.”
When a reporter from the San Francisco Bay Area asked McCutchen about moving from AT&T Park to Yankee Stadium as a hitter, he said, “I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it’s a little better as far as hitters go. Being able to hit the ball to the opposite side of the field and know you can get it out of there, it’s good.”
McCutchen said he is looking forward to the playoff atmosphere in the Bronx. “I’ve listened to playoff games here, Wild Card games, and it’s been pretty loud,” he said. “Just to be here at home and have the fans on your side, that’s a lot.”
As usual with these games, there is no telling how it will unfold. “We all know the game of baseball,” he said. “If you’re the best team or if you’re the worst team, on any given day it could be that team’s chance to win . . . What it’s all going to come down to is pitching, whoever’s on that day. Starters, bullpen, whoever’s on that day, that’s who’s going to win the game.”
McCutchen, 31, is old enough – barely – to remember when there were no wild cards at all through 1993.
“We’d be home if it wasn’t for this,” he said. “So that’s kind of the way I look at it. At least we have the opportunity to advance deeper in the playoffs. But it does become difficult when you’re playing one game.”