Despite the offensive struggles from the Pirates over the past several weeks, Andrew McCutchen looks like he’s getting back on track. And the team needs him to do so. Pittsburgh has lost 21 of their past 30 games, which includes a four game losing streak after Cincinnati walked off in extras on Monday night.
But in that game, Andrew McCutchen finished 2-for-5 with a home run and two walks (one intentional). McCutchen’s 26th dinger of the season led off the fourth inning. The center fielder took an 0-1 fastball from the Reds’ starter Mat Latos and lasered it to the seats in left field. It marked McCutchen’s second long ball in as many days.
McCutchen has been showing signs of getting back to his All-Star self at the plate. He picked up a four hit night against Houston last Tuesday night, and after the game, Manager Clint Hurdle said it was good to see him do so.
“I think that’s always going to be a good sign for Andrew when you see the ball hit to the big part of the park, right-center field,” Hurdle said. “He’s going to pull some balls. They’re pitching him in more with the fastball, they’re spinning some balls, they’re trying some different things. Him slowing it down, getting that pause, foot down, hands over his backside where there is a pause then the fire of the barrel. We’re seeing that with much more consistency. Definitely a good sign.”
After hitting just .252 in the month of August — the first month that McCutchen hit below a .300 clip — the outfielder has hit for a .294/.400/.529 line over nine games so far in the month of September. While those numbers are impressive for most players, it’s still a tick down from what McCutchen was able to do the first four months of the season.
McCutchen started the month of April slow power-wise. He hit for a .302 clip, but went the entire month without connecting for a home run. He followed that up by launching eight long balls in the month of May while hitting .360. McCutchen’s impressive months of June and July earned him back-to-back National League Player-of-the-Month awards. The center fielder hit .370 in June, and belted out a ridiculous .446/.510/.739 line with seven homers in the month of July. Despite dropping off in August, hitting just six extra-base hits in the month, McCutchen’s 175 hits this season leads the NL. His .409 on base percentage and 96 runs also lead the league.
But despite putting up huge numbers, Hurdle doesn’t believe McCutchen is focused on that. Hurdle believes that McCutchen isn’t caught up in what he did, and that’s he remains focused on playing each day at a time, and pushing forward to helping the club win.
“I think from an athletic viewpoint, athletes that are in competition like that, I haven’t talked to any that are caught up in that,” Hurdle said. “All that talk more often than not is external of the spectator, the fan, the media, that type of thing. He’s just trying to play the best ball that he can on the given day.”
“He’s somewhat aware of what’s been done, what’s been accomplished, but I don’t think he will be fully aware of that until after the season is over. You just don’t go there. You don’t reflect during the season on June or July, you’re playing and you keep pushing forward. More often than not, athletes are living in the moment. What he’s trying to do right now is spark and get hot again. He’s not back home polishing the June and July player of the month trophies.”
If the month of September so far is a sign of McCutchen heating back up again, the Pirates have a chance of winning more games down the stretch. Sitting 2.5 games back of St. Louis for the second spot in the Wild Card, McCutchen ramping the offense could be that push the team needs to put a string of wins together.
“Just a work in progress,” McCutchen said. “It’s just all about getting that feeling back…Not trying to do too much. Just trying to stay within myself. Just let it get deep and put a good swing on the ball.”