He simply was not going to assume anything after having seen two earlier drives die in the cool, damp air on the warning track.
"Considering those previous two balls … I hit [them well], and they went nowhere," McCutchen said. "So right off the bat, I didn't know, the ball hasn't been traveling. But I figured I'd try to get a triple out of it. I still didn't know when it went out."
By the time he rounded third and saw the Pirates roster awaiting him at home plate, he had a pretty good idea. A few minutes later, the A.J. Burnett-delivered whipped-cream covered towel to his face was mere punctuation.
Getting all that dairy stuff out of those trademark dreadlocks is no quick, easy task.
"Yep, that's why it took me so long to get out here and talk to you guys. The whole time, I was trying to get it out of my hair," McCutchen said.
It was worth the trouble, many times over. With McCutchen converting the comeback from a two-run sixth-inning deficit, the Pirates got a small measure of revenge against their Milwaukee nemeses.
They also now have a chance to continue a weird trend in their fourth four-game series of the season. In each of the first three such sets, they'd dropped the opener -- as they did to the Brewers on Monday -- then bounced back to win the next three.
"It's always tough when you have the lead going into the late innings and you give it up," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, for a change the manager with the long face after one of these games.
"There's a lot of fight in this team. We never feel like we're out of a game," Russell Martin said after his successful return to the lineup.
Ending a week's absence with neck stiffness, Martin keyed the comeback with doubles that were the centerpieces of rallies in both the sixth and eighth innings -- while throwing out the only Brewers runner who attempted to steal.
In the end, what Martin got to do was dash out of the clubhouse when he saw McCutchen's swing on TV.
"He'd been smoking balls to the track all night. It was great to see one keep going," Martin said.
The Bucs became the last of the 30 Major League teams to play extra innings, but looked expert at it. Four members of their outstanding bullpen blanked the Brewers on four hits across the last six innings, the last two by Vin Mazzaro (2-0).
Thanks to the winning blow being a walk-off homer, the Pirates prevailed in a game in which they went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The Bucs set up the ultimate heroics with the game-tying rally in the eighth.
John Axford began that inning as the Brewers' fifth pitcher and Neil Walker's leadoff single and Martin's RBI double got the Pirates even.
Martin's drive didn't quite make it all the way into the left-field corner before Ryan Braun cut it off. Nonetheless, pinch third-base coach Rick Sofield, subbing for Nick Leyva while he attends to some personal business, never hesitated waving around Walker, who had started out on first.
"That's an aggressive play," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "If the guy throws the ball right to the catcher at the plate, he's probably out, but he didn't. We took a chance, played aggressively, and we got a high throw. I've always told the third-base coaches I don't want to know if they might have been safe. So, [Sofield] listened. Or I should say he heard."
The Pirates thus survived their newest tormentor, shortstop Jean Segura. The National League's reigning Player of the Week continued to make life difficult for them on both sides of the ball. At bat, he drove in two of Milwaukee's runs. In the field, he negated an earlier game-tying single.
With runners on second and third and one out in the sixth -- Walker had walked in front of Martin's first double of the night -- Clint Barmes sent a sharp grounder up the middle that almost reached the outfield grass. Almost -- because Segura scooped it up on the run and pegged to first to nail Barmes, although Walker did cross the plate with the run that made it 3-2.
Milwaukee snapped a 1-1 tie in the fourth on doubles by Braun and Carlos Gomez.
The Brewers should send a thank-you note for the run that made it 3-1 in the fifth. It was a gift: After Norichika Aoki reached on a ball that rattled around between Jeff Locke's legs -- the Brewers' fifth infield single in two games -- consecutive wild pitches escorted him to third before Segura's infield grounder scored him.
Locke retired after six innings with another quality start, having held Milwaukee to three runs on seven hits. He walked one while matching his season high with six strikeouts.
"It feels like forever since I was in there," Locke said at the end of the long evening, "but it was great."
By comparison, Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse went 5 2/3 innings and matched five walks he issued with the five hits he allowed, limiting their damage to two runs.
Starling Marte got his 18th game-opening hit and scored his 11th game-opening run to get the Bucs even in the bottom of the first, neutralizing Segura's homer in the top of the inning. Marte advanced on a single by Jose Tabata and eventually scored on Garrett Jones' grounder.