Andrew McCutchen had learned a lot from his second half struggles last year with the Pirates. After hitting .291 heading into the All-Star break, the club fell out of first place and McCutchen tried to do too much at the plate. He hit just .216 in the second half of the season.
The All-Star center fielder has put up numbers that have put him in MVP discussion. He’s hit for a .360/.413/.610 line and is tied on the team with 16 long balls.
“He’s hit the ball from right field to left field,” Hurdle said. “He’s hit for power from right field to left field. He opened up his stance. I think he paid a lot of attention to the way he hit in the first half, then paid a lot of attention to the way he hit in the second half.”
“He has a game changing skill set and I think for the most part for the second half he went up to the plate every time trying to change the direction of the game. He was really trying to be a hitter that he’s not. He’s not a home run hitter. He’s a good hitter with power. He’s not a power hitter. I think that got lost in translation for him a little bit. The swing got big. Yes, he got home runs. Yes, he did produce runs, but the batting average dropped dramatically.”
“I told Andrew last year the good news and the bad news. The bad news is you hit .250. The good news is you’ll never hit .250 again.”
McDonald Strikes Out Ten With No Walks
From the get-go, James McDonald was impressive. He started the game with a 2-2 curveball that Gregor Blanco chased to notch his first strikeout. Even a rain delay didn’t throw McDonald’s command off. He was spot on in his 17th start of the season on Saturday.
“I had a pretty good arsenal today — slider was better than it has been, the fastball command was good, threw some good changeups,” McDonald said.
“Straight A’s,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Good downhill angle on his fastball, a breaking ball for strikes, a breaking ball for chase. He threw some changeups. Very efficient.”
With all his pitches working, McDonald became the first Pirates pitcher since Jason Schmidt on September 23, 1996 to work at least seven innings, with no walks and ten strikeouts.
“I’d say (more pleased about) the no walks – I’ve only done that once this year before, so no walks are the big thing for me,” McDonald said.
“I love the no walk and 10 strikeouts,” Hurdle said. “That’s good stuff. That’s just Major League top shelf stuff right there.”
McDonald whiffed four batters over his first 2.1 innings before allowing his first hit of the game in the third. The right-hander held the San Francisco Giants to just four over his seven frames and retired nine of his final 10 batters in a row.
“I got ahead of a lot of guys, and was able to put them away when I needed to,” McDonald said.”Every day is a statement day; you wanna be the guy who goes out there and is known as a competitor, who brings the same intensity every day.”
The lone run that McDonald allowed came with two outs in the sixth inning. After striking out his first two batters, Blanco hit a base knock to center field. The outfielder advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single up the middle from Ryan Theriot. McDonald whiffed his ninth batter of the outing to end the sixth.
McDonald finished up retiring three straight in the seventh as he walked off the mound to standing ovation. Overall, McDonald allowed one run on four hits over seven innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 10. It marked the third time this season McDonald has double digit K’s. It was just one shy of his career-high 11, which he sent this season on May 17 against Washington.
“I want to be that guy that shows other teams we’re for real, that we do have quality players here,” McDonald said. “Everyone looks at Pittsburgh as a team you can come in and beat — all of us have chips on our shoulders, to let guys know we’re competitors, we’re here to be good for a while.”
After the game in the clubhouse, McDonald and the team were wearing gold crowns in honor of their King James.
Presley Progressing Through Concussion
Hurdle said today that Alex Presley is progressing through a concussion that he suffered Tuesday after attempting to make a diving catch in left field. The injury forced Presley to land on the 7-day disabled list.
“He’s feeling a little bit better,” Hurdle said. “Spoke with him today when he came in. He’s expected to take another battery of tests.”