McCutchen looks to put on another hitting display at Coors Field on Wednesday when the Pirates and Colorado Rockies conclude their three-game set.
He has taken a huge step forward after hitting just .259 last year, and his next home run will match his career-high total of 23 from 2011. McCutchen has gone deep six times in his last six games, and he's hitting .500 with nine homers, 19 RBIs and 24 runs in his past 16 contests, with the Pirates (50-40) winning 12 of those.
"He's doing things that are impressive," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's official website. "He's found a stroke with which he is in a good place. It's been fun to watch."
Visiting Denver has kept McCutchen red hot. He has four hits while Pittsburgh and Colorado (35-55) have split the first two games of this series, and he homered for the third time in his last five games at Coors Field in Tuesday's 6-2 win as the Pirates became the fourth team in the NL to 50 wins.
"It's a mile marker along the way," Hurdle said. "There's a bunch of people in there who planned on getting there earlier than we did."
The Pirates are second in the Central, one game back of first-place Cincinnati.
Hurdle hopes James McDonald (9-3, 2.59 ERA) can rebound from one of his worst performances of the season and perhaps pull Pittsburgh even with the Reds.
The right-hander, who has already matched his win total from 31 starts last year, allowed a season-high five runs along with five walks and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings while not getting a decision in Friday's 10-7 loss at Milwaukee. He had won his previous four starts behind a 2.51 ERA while issuing seven walks in 28 2-3 innings.
McDonald is 1-0 with a 2.75 ERA in his last three starts versus the Rockies, but they all came at home. He allowed five runs in five innings in his only previous start in Denver, a win in 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers .
Colorado has dropped five of seven at home, and giving the ball to Jeremy Guthrie (3-9, 6.14) doesn't seem like the best path to improvement.
The right-hander is 1-5 with a 9.23 ERA in eight home games - six starts. Opponents are hitting .365 against him with 12 homers in 39 innings in Denver.
Guthrie's struggles continued Saturday, when he surrendered four runs in the opening inning against Philadelphia at Coors Field. He didn't allow any more runs and ended up pitching 4 2-3 innings, but he still took the loss in an 8-5 defeat.
"I got the longest scoreless streak of my career at Coors, so there are a lot of positives to build on - a career low in runs allowed in a start as well," Guthrie told the Rockies' official website. "You've got to take what you can."
He was charged with a 9-3 road loss while with Baltimore in his only start against the Pirates on June 21, 2011, allowing six runs and 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings. McCutchen singled and walked twice against him.
|July 05, 2012||Alex Presley||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 05, 2012||Alex Presley||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 30, 2012||Andrew McCutchen||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left wrist|
|June 25, 2012||Rod Barajas||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left knee|
|May 30, 2012||Charlie Morton||60-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|May 10, 2012||Daniel McCutchen||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|July 16, 2012||Chris Nelson||15-Day DL||Irregular heart beat|
|July 16, 2012||Jonathan Herrera||15-Day DL||Left wrist infection|
|July 09, 2012||Todd Helton||15-Day DL||Right hip inflammation|
|July 09, 2012||Wil Nieves||15-Day DL||Turf toe, right foot|
|July 04, 2012||Jason Giambi||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|June 17, 2012||Carlos Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Sore right hamstring|
DENVER (AP) -- Clint Hurdle remained calm as his ace was roughed up in hitter-friendly Coors Field. Pittsburgh's bats rewarded the manager for his patience.
Garrett Jones had three hits, including one of Pittsburgh's four home runs, Pedro Alvarez also homered and the Pirates rallied to beat the Colorado Rockies 9-6 on Wednesday.
James McDonald struggled through five tough innings, and Rod Barajas and Casey McGehee also went deep for the Pirates, who took two of three from the Rockies.
It was the kind of homer-happy game Hurdle managed in his seven years as the Rockies' skipper, and he proved experience matters in this ballpark.
"I'm comfortable being uncomfortable here," he said. "Seeing almost a thousand games in this park, it does make it easy. You don't get out there too quick, you don't overreact, you don't under-react, you just try to react appropriately."
Watching a combined six home runs fly over the fence is a familiar, if not modest, sight at Coors Field.
"You can ratchet that up a little bit," he said.
Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez homered, and Andrew Brown , recalled Tuesday and batting cleanup, had three hits for Colorado.
One of Brown's hits, an RBI single in the fourth, tied the game 6-all before the Pirates took control.
Jones started the fifth with a single off reliever Matt Reynolds (3-1) and McGehee followed with his eighth homer of the season. One out later, Barajas homered to make it 9-6.
"It's nice to jump back in the game and take the life out of the other team with one swing of the bat," McGehee said. "We didn't necessarily try to drive the ball out of the ballpark, we just made good solid contact and let the ball travel like it can here."
The Rockies got the tying run to the plate with one out in the eighth but Gonzalez grounded out and Brown struck out to end the threat.
Joel Hanrahan recorded the last three outs for his 26th save in 29 chances.
"James was able to find his way and navigate through five and just efficient work out of the bullpen," Hurdle said. "He's still growing up. The league fires back and when you're not sharp you pay."
Trailing 5-1 entering the third, the Pirates rallied to take the lead against starter Jeremy Guthrie . McDonald helped himself with a leadoff single, Andrew McCutchen walked with two outs and Jones homered to right-center field to make it 5-4.
"A big home run by Jones there, he took a great swing," Guthrie said. "At that point I let the team back into it."
McGehee reached on an error, Alvarez singled and Barajas was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Clint Barmes followed with a two-run single to make it 6-5 and chase Guthrie.
"We had a guy on the ropes and Barmes comes through with a big hit to knock him out," McGehee said. "You get a chance to knock a starter out early that's usually a good recipe to try and win a game."
Fowler led off the bottom of the first with his 12th homer, Marco Scutaro walked and Gonzalez followed with his 18th home run to give Colorado a 3-0 lead.
Alvarez made it 3-1 in the second with his 19th homer. The Rockies tacked on two more in the bottom of the inning on Scutaro's groundout and Brown's single.
McDonald (10-3) wasn't sharp but he stuck around long enough to win his fifth straight decision and set a career-high for wins. He allowed six runs on nine hits, walked four and struck out two and needed 108 pitches to get 15 outs.
"It's weird because I got my first big league win here," McDonald said. "It was the same style of game. I gave up five runs and got the win. Here, you can get runs quick. Everyone knows that. All I could do is keep them in the game."
NOTES: The Pirates are 40-1 when leading after six innings and 44-0 when leading after seven. ... Fowler's home run was his second leading off a game this year and the third of his career. ... Rockies INF Chris Nelson (irregular heartbeat) was released from the hospital Tuesday and visited the team during Tuesday's game. He is home resting comfortably. ... The Pirates will send RHP Kevin Correia (6-6) in the series opener against Miami on Friday. ... LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-4) will start the opener of a three-game series in San Diego on Friday.