McCutchen homers and Pirates beat Cubs 4-2
PITTSBURGH — The National League MVP doesn’t play favorites when it comes to hot streaks. Neither do the Pittsburgh Pirates, who rode Andrew McCutchen to another win Wednesday.
McCutchen homered and reached base four times and the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 4-2 at rainy PNC Park on Wednesday night.
McCutchen is batting .462 during a seven-game hitting streak and has 12 extra-base hits during 10 June games.
“I don’t compare (career-best stretches),” McCutchen said. “I’m not big on that. I’m just seeing the ball hitting the ball. I’m in a spurt where I’m feeling really good right now.”
So are the Pirates, who have taken two of the first three games of the series with their NL Central rivals.
Pittsburgh’s Brandon Cumpton (2-2) pitched five effective innings, and the offense pounded Cubs starter Jason Hammel (6-4) for 11 hits in five innings, snapping his streaks of 14 1/3 innings without allowing a run and 52 innings without allowing a homer when McCutchen hit his 10th in the first.
McCutchen also had a single and walked twice.
“He’s hot,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “When he gets his pitch, he’s not missing.”
Luis Valbuena likewise continued his recent strong hitting with three hits for last-place Chicago, which has lost three of four after a season-best five-game winning streak.
The game’s first pitch was delayed 1 hour, 38 minutes because of a severe thunderstorm that began sweeping through downtown Pittsburgh about an hour before the scheduled start time. Rain fell again during the sixth inning.
McCutchen’s fly ball landed more than a row into the left-field seats — but it almost became an extra-long out when leftfielder Chris Coghlan leaped into the stands. He landed in the seats and said he had a read on the ball but that a fan outmaneuvered him for it.
“Best non-catch effort I’ve ever seen,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.
“I would have went there and shook his hand myself if he caught that ball,” McCutchen said.
The Pirates’ Gregory Polanco went 1 for 5 with an RBI groundout a day after his much-hyped major league debut Tuesday.
Making his sixth start of the season and fourth since being given a regular rotation spot, Cumpton allowed two runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. On his final pitch, he struck out Nate Schierholtz swinging with the bases loaded.
“It’s something I need to work on, getting through the fifth and sixth innings,” Cumpton said. “It was a good experience, a real confidence booster for me.”
Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli followed with a hitless inning each. Grilli earned his 10th save of the season during what was his 400th career appearance.
Hammel had won two previous starts against the Pirates this season and entered Wednesday with the second-best WHIP in the majors (0.88). He allowed 14 baserunners Wednesday.
“It was rough,” Hammel said with a laugh. “A lot of hits given up. Up in the zone. Obviously could have been better strikes thrown, but I battled through. It could have been a lot worse — 11 hits through five innings? It’s amazing they only put up four.”
Hammel was spared a worse line by some poor baserunning by Pittsburgh, which hit into two peculiar double plays and had another runner thrown out at third during the seventh inning after Hammel was out of the game.
The Pirates’ Starling Marte had two hits — including an RBI single in the fifth inning — but also was thrown out on the basepaths for the third time in two games when he was picked off third following a Travis Snider pop-up behind home plate in the fifth.
The Cubs briefly tied the game at 2 in the second when John Baker’s single drove in Valbuena and Nate Schierholtz scored on a groundout.
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar