Pregame: McCutchen Back in the Lineup; J-Mac’s Evolution

Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen is back in the lineup tonight against the Cincinnati Reds after missing last night’s action and half of Thursday’s game in St. Louis. McCutchen was given time off due to the stomach flu and is feeling better after seeing the doctors on Friday.

McCutchen started each of the first 23 games this season before sitting out Wednesday’s game. He has reached base safely in eight of his last nine games and in 20 of his 24 overall this season.

 

Right-hander James McDonald will get the nod tonight against the Reds. McDonald has struck out a combined 18 batters in his last two starts (14.2ip). He’s coming off a start where he struck out a career-high 10 batters while cruising to a 9-3 win in Atlanta on Monday night. McDonald threw a career-high 114 pitches in the win, allowing a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the 1st inning and one more run in the fourth.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the continued evolution of this young man,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “I spoke to it last year. You come off the outing he had in Atlanta.”

“I did not wake up thinking about J-Mac on the mound, I’ll be quite honest with you,” Hurdle said with a laugh. “My daughter was knocking on my door at 6:45 ready to go to Starbucks, then go to Target. So J-Mac was down on the list. Christian was right there with her. I had two faces in front of me, and they weren’t James McDonald. But he was there. By the time I got to the park, he was there. He’s an exciting man for us to have in the rotation. The growth that he’s exhibited in a years time is significant enough for you to be excited about it when he does take the mound.”

McDonald has posted a 2.97 ERA over his five starts in 2012.

 

  • Pirates Lineup vs. Reds:  Jose Tabata 7 Neil Walker 4 Andrew McCutchen 8 Pedro Alvarez 5 Casey McGehee 3 Garrett Jones 9 Clint Barmes 6 Rod Barajas 2 James McDonald 1
  • Pedro Alvarez is batting cleanup for the first time this season. Here’s the feature.
  • With his next home run hit in Pittsburgh, Garrett Jones will tie Adam LaRoche for sixth place on the all-time list for homers hit at PNC Park. Jones currently has hit 33 home runs at PNC Park, one behind LaRoche and seven behind Aramis Ramirez, who is one of five players to have hit 40 or more here.
  • Pittsburgh’s bullpen has allowed two runs in the last three games (11.1ip) and enters tonight’s action with a 2.84 ERA…The only two National League teams with a lower bullpen ERA are Cincinnati (2.54) and San Diego (2.70).
  • Pittsburgh has recorded 40 extra base hits (30 doubles, one triple and nine home runs) in the last 11 games, beginning with the action on April 24…In that time frame, the Pirates rank first among all Major League teams in extra-base hits, with Boston (39) and Seattle (37) ranking second and third respectively.
  • Reds Lineup vs. Pirates: Zach Cozart 6, Drew Stubbs 8, Joey Votto 3, Brandon Phillips 4, Jay Bruce 9, Scott Rolen 5, Ryan Ludwick 7, Devin Mesoraco 2, Mike Leake 1
  • Right-hander Mike Leake has posted a 6.65 ERA over his four starts this season. He was charged with six runs (three earned) on seven hits over 3.2 innings against the Houston Astros during his last start.
“We’ve got a number of guys that have seen him,” Hurdle said. “He’s a strike thrower. He works quick. It’s location and change of speeds for him. This point in time of the season, he’s been effective at times. There’s been an inning that has seemed to get in his way every time out…We’ve got to be aggressive in the strike zone because he’s going to feed the strike zone. When he gets in the middle of the strike zone, that’s when we’ve got to be ready and make good passes, get good things to happen.”

 

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