Andrew McCutchen's chances of winning the National League batting title got a whole lot better Friday.
Serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for an excess amount of testosterone, San Francisco left fielder Melky Cabrera, who was leading the league with a .346 batting average, was removed from the batting championship race at his request.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association reached a deal on a one-season-only change in the rule governing the individual batting, slugging and on-base percentage champions
Cabrera had 501 plate appearances, one short of the required minimum, but would have won the title under section 10.22(a) of the Official Baseball Rules if an extra hitless at-bat were added to his average and he still finished ahead. With Friday's agreement, that provision won't apply this year to a player who "served a drug suspension for violating the Joint Drug Program."
McCutchen, the Pirates' center fielder, is hitting .338 after going 1-for-4 on Friday night in a 7-1 loss at Houston. He holds a three-point lead over San Francisco catcher Buster Posey (.335) while St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina is third at .321.
"It was man of him to do that," McCutchen said of Cabrera's action. "I guess he thought that was the right thing to do and I commend him for doing that."
McCutchen had stayed quiet about the possibility of losing the batting title to a suspended player. He had said for weeks that he was more concerned about trying to help the Pirates get to the postseason for the first time since 1992.
However, the Pirates' postseason hopes are just about dead now as they are 5 1/2 games off St. Louis' pace for the second NL wild card with 12 games remaining.
Pirates manger Clint Hurdle also finally spoke publicly about the batting title situation for the first time Friday after previously saying he preferred to keep his thoughts to himself.
"It would have been hard to understand," he said of a Cabrera batting title. "That being said, there are a lot of things that happen in life that are hard to understand. So we don't have to worry about that anymore. I'm glad Melky did what he did. It was a voice of reason."