Pirates Notebook: Why are Teams Pitching to McCutchen?
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is having a huge month of May. Even after going 0-for-3 on Sunday, McCutchen is hitting for a .396 average (21-for-53) with a double, triple, seven home runs, 13 RBI, 12 runs scored and a .900 slugging percentage in his first 16 games this month.
“I don’t know,” McCutchen said with a laugh on why club’s are still pitching to him, after blasting two two-run homers against Detroit on Saturday.
“Some of it, I just think they think they can get him out,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “The guy that day thinks he can get him out. That’s about all I got. They think they can get him out.”
McCutchen has recorded two multi home run games in his last three games on Thursday and Saturday. The only other Pittsburgh player in the last 25 years to record two multi-homer games over a three-game span is Pedro Alvarez, who hit two home runs in back-to-back games in July 2010.
McCutchen’s seven home runs this month are the most he’s hit in a month since hitting eight long balls during his rookie season in August 2009. The center fielder went 95 at-bats before hitting his first homer.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” McCutchen said. “It all goes back to what I did this offseason. Just working hard, preparing myself, getting myself ready for this year. Just doing at the plate what I felt was comfortable. I found something that was comfortable and just stuck with it. Even when I wasn’t feeling too good, I just kept with it, kept with it and it’s paying off.”
For a month and a half prior to reporting to Spring Training, McCutchen worked out at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. The 25-year-old focused on getting stronger and quicker, working at a 100 percent level every day. After arriving to Pirate City for camp, McCutchen knew he would be ready to go.
All that hard work has been paying off.
“It’s just getting into a comfortable hitting position,” McCutchen said hitting for power. “Just swinging the bat, making solid contact with the ball. That’s what it’s all about. A lot of guys go through bumps and they could be in a good hitting position and they could just foul balls off and just miss them. I’m really not missing my pitches. What I’m swinging at, I’m squaring up. Feeling pretty good at the plate.”
While McCutchen was hitting for a solid average over 86 at-bats in April (.302), the outfielder hit six doubles and swiped five bags, but didn’t hit a home run. But despite not connecting for a long ball last month, McCutchen said he wasn’t trying to do too much at the plate.
During the second half of the 2011 season, McCutchen admitted that his struggles (.216 average over his final 70 games) was attributed to trying too hard while the club was having a tough time scoring runs. Despite the offense hitting a combined .218, which is ranked 29th in the Majors, McCutchen is keeping it simple.
“Not trying to swing out of my shoes, I’m just trying to make solid contact to the ball,” McCutchen said. “That’s all I’m trying to do. Get myself in a great position to be able to do damage to all parts of the field. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’ve been able to get some balls out of the park.”
Locke Recalled, But Correia Still Starts
The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled left-hander Jeff Locke on Sunday after placing righty reliever Jason Grilli on the bereavement list. Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said Locke would only be used in long relief if needed from the ‘pen. The lefty made eight starts at Triple-A this season, where he posted a 3.02 ERA over 47.2 innings.
Right-hander Kevin Correia has struggled as of late, and Locke provided insurance in case Correia was pulled early from his start on Sunday in Detroit. Correia posted a 2.42 ERA over four starts (22.1 innings) in April. Entering game action, the right-hander has posted a 7.13 ERA over three outings (17.2 innings) in May.
Correia allowed three runs on four hits over six-plus innings this afternoon. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two. The first run off right-hander was from the long ball. After allowing one home run in his first four starts, Correia has surrendered five in his last four outings. The Tigers’ Johnny Peralta took a 1-1 pitch for a solo-shot with one out in the fifth inning to tie the game at 1.
After five straight, Correia allowed a leadoff double to Prince Fielder which dropped into shallow left field. Designated hitter Delmon Young connected for a single up the middle to tie the game at 2. Lefty Tony Watson came in for relief and retired his first batter. Peralta drew a walk, and a passed ball by catcher Rod Barajas on a mis-communication with Watson pushed both runners into scoring position. Alex Avila took a slider up the middle to plate two runs (one earned by Watson).
Correia’s May ERA is at 6.59.
Barajas Hitting the Long Ball
Catcher Rod Barajas broke up right-hander Max Scherzer’s five straight strikeout streak by taking a first pitch fastball into the seats in left for a solo-homer in the fifth inning. It marked Barajas’ fourth homer of the season. All four bombs have come over his last nine games.
Bucs Whiff 15 Times
The Pirates were only able to score two runs off right-hander Max Scherzer in the 4-3 loss. Both runs came from solo-shots. Barajas and Neil Walker each connected for a long ball over Scherzer’s seven inning outing. Walker’s came with one out in the 6th. Scherzer went on to walk just one while whiffing 15 batters –a career-high. The club was just one strikeout from tying the club record of 16, which has been set on four occasions in Pirates history. The last time came on August 23, 2001 against the Arizona Diamondbacks by Randy Johnson.