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Pirates' McCutchen stays hot in win vs. Cubs

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- A cold April and a chilly May in Western Pennsylvania has been followed by a warm and humid June. That makes Andrew McCutchen happy.

"I'm from Florida, so I like hot weather," the Pittsburgh Pirates' center fielder said with a smile.

McCutchen continued his torrid June by hitting a two-run home run and reaching base in all four plate appearances, leading the Pirates to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.

The center fielder homered in the first inning to open the scoring. It was his 10th homer of the season and sixth this month.

McCutchen also doubled and walked twice. In 10 games this month, he is hitting .421 with 13 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs.

"When he gets his pitch, he's not missing," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's hitting the ball line to line. He is in command of the at-bat. The pitches he can't hit, he's taking. He'll take the walk and then go (attempt a stolen base) and put pressure on the other team. He's in another gear."

McCutchen said the secret to his success is keeping his hitting approach uncomplicated.

"A lot of times you go out and don't do so well and it's not necessarily physical as much as it's mental," McCutchen said. "When I'm having one of these times like now, I just keep thinking about what I'm doing right and keep it right there."

Shortstop Jordy Mercer had three hits for Pittsburgh, including a double, and left fielder Starling Marte added two hits.

Rookie right fielder Gregory Polanco had his first career RBI as his groundout in the third inning scored Mercer and put the Pirates ahead for good, 3-2. An inning later, third baseman Pedro Alvarez tripled and scored on Marte's single.

Rookie right-hander Brandon Cumpton (2-2) won his second consecutive start, allowing two runs on five hits in five innings. He struck out five and walked two.

Cumpton preserved the 4-2 lead by striking out right fielder Nate Schierholtz with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning.

"It was a good experience, a real confidence booster," Cumpton said.

Closer Jason Grilli pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 10th save in 12 opportunities. Left-handers Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and right-hander Mark Melancon worked one scoreless inning apiece.

Cubs starter Jason Hammel (6-4) gave up four runs and 11 hits in five innings, with two walks and six strikeouts. McCutchen's blast ended the right-hander's streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings and eight starts in a row without allowing a home run.

"Honestly, I thought I did a pretty good job for as many baserunners as I had," Hammel said. "I was fortunate they only had four (runs) across. It was definitely a battle. It was a grind."

Luis Valbuena had three of the Cubs' five hits as he has taken the starting third baseman job away from Mike Olt in recent weeks.

"He's a guy who continues to give you very good at-bats, continues to put the barrel at the ball," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He's been able to continue to kind of establish himself."

NOTES: The start of the game was delayed one hour and 38 minutes because of a thunderstorm. ... Pirates 2B Josh Harrison left the game in the bottom of the third inning because of right ankle discomfort. ... The Pirates placed LHP Francisco Liriano on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique, a day after he was injured in the fourth inning of his start against the Cubs. RHP Stolmy Pimentel was activated from the 15-day disabled list after being out since May 2 with right shoulder inflammation. ... Chicago 2B Emilio Bonifacio and LF Junior Lake were not in the starting lineup as manager Rich Renteria gave them a rest. Bonifacio entered as a defensive replacement. ... Pittsburgh RHP Gerrit Cole threw off flat ground from 90 feet before the game as he continues his rehab from right shoulder fatigue. Cole, who is on the disabled list retroactive to June 4, is scheduled to throw off a mound Friday. ... The four-game series concludes Thursday night with Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-5, 2.54 ERA) facing Pirates RHP Edinson Volquez (3-5, 4.27).

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