McCutchen powers Pirates past Cubs
The celebrity that came with winning the National League MVP Award and having his marriage proposal offered and accepted on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last year has boosted Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen all the way to fourth place in the latest All-Star voting.
Wait ... what? Fourth place?
Yasiel Puig is the league's top vote-getter among outfielders, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton is second. Over the past few days, Carlos Gomez — the bat-flipping instigator of the Easter brawl between the Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers — leap-frogged McCutchen to move into third place by about 1,600 votes.
“I definitely don't pay attention to it,” McCutchen said. “It's just one of those things.”
Geez, what does McCutchen have to do to get more respect?
One way to win votes is to keep clubbing the ball like McCutchen did Monday in a 6-2 victory against the Chicago Cubs. In the third inning, McCutchen ripped a two-run homer off right-hander Edwin Jackson. In the fifth, McCutchen flicked another 95 mph fastball off the Clemente Wall for a run-scoring double.
Over his past 15 games at PNC Park, McCutchen is hitting .390. He's riding a five-game hitting streak and has 10 extra-base hits in eight games this month.
“I made a minor adjustment, and now I'm seeing the ball a little longer,” McCutchen said. “When I'm able to get the barrel to it, good things happen.”
Ike Davis hit a solo home run to snap an 0-for-22 skid. Starling Marte, who went into the game hitless since May 29 — a stretch of 23 fruitless at-bats — delivered a pair of run-producing doubles.
All that offense helped right-hander Charlie Morton win back-to-back starts for the first time since late September 2013.
Morton (3-7) went seven innings and allowed one run on six hits and struck out seven. For the first time in 13 starts this season, Morton neither walked nor hit a batter.
“I got some quick outs, and that helps,” Morton said.
Of the 21 batters Morton faced, 17 were retired on three pitches or fewer. He faced just one three-ball count.
“The nine ground-ball outs were just as impressive as all the strikeouts,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Pedro Alvarez banged a single off the glove of second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, and Marte followed with a run-scoring double.
With one out in the third, Travis Snider bounced a ground-rule double over the short left-field wall. Snider was a late addition to the lineup when Neil Walker was scratched due to abdominal pain.
McCutchen then hit a 1-2 fastball into the right-field seats to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
It was the 39th homer allowed by the Cubs, the lowest total in the majors. However, Jackson (4-6) has served up six long balls, second-most on the team behind Travis Wood (seven).
A solid defensive play by shortstop Jordy Mercer helped keep the Cubs from scoring in the fifth. Nate Schierholtz started the inning by beating the extreme defensive shift and rolling a double into shallow left field. With one out, John Baker hit a bouncer up the middle.
Mercer snatched the ball near second base, did a 360-degree spin on the run and threw to first to get Baker.
“We practice it that way every day in batting practice,” Mercer said.
McCutchen's RBI double made it 4-0 in the fifth. After getting just three hits, two of them infield singles, over the first five innings, the Cubs finally got to Morton in the sixth.
With two outs, Anthony Rizzo singled off Alvarez's glove. Starlin Castro followed with a double that soared over Snider's head in right-center and caromed off the wall.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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