PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has coined a phrase for where star center fielder Andrew McCutchen is at the moment.
“(He’s) McHot,” Hurdle said.
For once, it might be an understatement.
The reigning National League MVP had two doubles and two RBIs to lift the Pirates to a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night. McCutchen is batting .428 (18 of 42) this month, with 15 of his hits going for extra bases.
“I’m seeing the ball and I get a pitch to hit and I hit it and it’s finding the gaps and that’s basically what’s happening right now for me,” said McCutchen, a career .324 hitter in June. “Things are just working out right now and I want to continue to stay where I’m at.”
Russell Martin also doubled twice for the Pirates and rookie Gregory Polanco got a hit in the third straight game since his call-up. Edinson Volquez (4-5) pitched seven effective innings to win for the third time in his last five starts.
Volquez struck out five and walked two while outpitching Chicago ace Jeff Samardzija (2-6). It helped the Cubs could do little when given the chance. Chicago went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
“He was commanding the zone like he does when he is in a good place and we were on the other side of it,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Volquez.
McCutchen broke it open with a two-run double in the fifth. The Pirates had seven doubles in all, their highest total since a win over Houston in July 2010.
“The next team that comes in here is probably better off pitching around him and letting him go to first base,” Samardzija said.
Luis Valbuena had two doubles for the Cubs, who went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position to fall for the fourth time in five games. The Cubs have scored two runs or fewer in nine of Samardzija’s 14 starts.
Chicago’s troubles weren’t just on offense on a night the worst road team in baseball fell to 0-9-3 in series played away from Wrigley Field this year. Samardzija struggled against a team that seems to be rounding into form behind its star center fielder.
McCutchen extended his hitting streak to eight straight by doubling with one out in the fourth before coming around to score when Martin smacked a ball off the wall in right field. Ike Davis scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Jordy Mercer to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Pittsburgh made it 4-0 in the fifth when Polanco — batting leadoff for the first time — and Starling Marte hit consecutive singles followed by drive by McCutchen to the notch in left-center. McCutchen slid into the third on the play before making a rare mental miscue when he stepped off the base, allowing him to get tagged out in the process.
“I guess that’s why they say stay humble in this game, because crazy stuff like that will happen,” McCutchen said. “Popping up, getting all excited and next thing you know I’m floating all over the bag and his glove is right there so that’s why you stay humble.”
It hardly mattered. The Cubs were too busy wasting chances to get to Volquez, who has suddenly emerged as a constant on Pittsburgh’s injury muddled pitching staff. After a bumpy patch in early May, Volquez is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in his last five starts.
NOTES: The Pirates called up INF Michael Martinez from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game and optioned RHP Casey Sandler back to Indianapolis. ... Chicago CF Emilio Bonifacio left in the first inning with a rib injury and did not return. ... Chicago signed free agent C Yorvit Torrealba to a minor league deal Thursday. Torrealba, who played for Colorado last season, will report to Chicago’s training complex in Mesa, Arizona. ... The Pirates begin a three-game set in Miami on Friday night against the Marlins. Jeff Locke (0-1) starts for Pittsburgh against Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.27). ... The Cubs continue a 10-game road trip on Friday in Philadelphia. Jake Arrieta (1-1, 2.50) starts for the Cubs against Roberto Hernandez (2-4, 4.35).
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