The scapegoats of last night’s 4-3, 14-inning loss at St. Louis are easily identified and defined: Starling Marte lost the game. Andrew McCutchen failed to win it.

If Marte catches that fly ball in the ninth, the Pirates win. It’s that simple.

But McCutchen had four distinct chances to win the game, and did not:

*Fifth inning: Cutch strikes out with a man on third and one out.

*Eighth inning: Cutch whiffs with a man on second and none out.

*10th inning: Cutch grounds out with a man on third and two out.

*13th inning: Cutch on third, Pedro Alvarez on first, nobody out. Russell Martin’s grounder forces St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma to dive. Cutch freezes at third. Kozma gets the out at first. Cardinals ultimately escape the inning.

If you’re the team’s best player and a legitimate NL MVP candidate, you’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. GOT TO.

Perhaps manager Clint Hurdle told McCutchen to play it safe on that 13th inning grounder. If so, that’s Hurdle’s gaffe. You break on contact and force Kozma to make a difficult play. At worst, you got first and second with one out.

True, McCutchen hit a two-run homer.

So what? You’ve got to finish the job.

Don’t wait for other guys to pitch in. They won’t. The Pirates have precious little offense. Cutch needs to come through all the time. That’s reality.

Perhaps Cutch isn’t a winner. We’ll see. He’s still got 44 games to prove it.

Last night, he proved otherwise.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.