Pirates-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

Andrew McCutchen is among the NL's top hitters, and he's the best in baseball against left-handers.

That's a big reason the Pittsburgh Pirates are unexpectedly tied atop the NL Central.

McCutchen will try to keep the Pirates rolling by continuing his dominance of left-handed pitchers when his team faces the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.

A career .282 hitter and an All-Star for the first time last year, McCutchen is among the league leaders with a .325 average while pacing the Pirates (32-27) with 11 homers and 36 RBIs.

McCutchen is even better against left-handers, leading the majors with a .463 average with four homers and 17 RBIs in 54 at-bats. He connected for a double and a homer while plating three runs off lefty Bruce Chen to power Sunday's 3-2 win over Kansas City as the Pirates swept their first interleague series since June 2001.

McCutchen was 3 for 19 over the five previous games.

"It's just one of those things, I guess," McCutchen, who has a .636 on-base percentage and a 1.809 OPS against lefties since May, told the team's official website. "I see them a little better, I guess. I hadn't been feeling that great, past few days, but I figured a couple things out in the cage and was able to pretty much put on a show."

McCutchen gets another chance to deliver against a left-hander as the Orioles (34-26) are scheduled to send Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 3.49 ERA) to the mound. McCutchen went 6 for 9 as the Pirates took two of three from Baltimore at home last June 20-22.

Another strong performance from McCutchen could give Pittsburgh sole possession of the Central lead. The Pirates are tied with Cincinnati, which opens a three-game set against Cleveland, thanks to a 12-3 run.

"We are playing good ball now and we are hitting on a couple of cylinders and it's fun to watch," said right-hander A.J. Burnett, Sunday's winner.

The Pirates have won four in a row since Brad Lincoln (3-1, 2.40) lost his last outing, and the right-hander will try to rebound and lift them to their first five-game winning streak since Sept. 17-22, 2010.

Lincoln is getting another turn in the rotation with Charlie Morton (right elbow inflammation) and Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) on the disabled list, and he's 4-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 19 career starts.

He gave up five runs and six hits in four innings of a 5-4 loss in Cincinnati on Wednesday in his first start since May 14. Lincoln had thrown 5 2-3 scoreless innings over his previous six games, all in relief.

"I got gassed," Lincoln said. "I haven't gone that deep into a game in a long time. I struggled with my location in the fourth inning, got some pitches up into the zone."

The Orioles would like to make things easier on themselves after working overtime Saturday and Sunday. Matt Wieters' RBI double lifted them to a 5-4, 10-inning victory Sunday, a day after Adam Jones won it with a two-run homer in the 12th.

"We'd rather win games in nine, but if you're going to go extras you want to win those," Wieters said. "The key is our bullpen has been able to keep teams where they're at - especially when we get to extra innings - and just give our offense the chance to get a timely hit."

Chen (5-2, 3.49) was impressive in his latest outing Wednesday, yielding one run and scattering seven hits over seven innings of a 2-1 win at Boston. The rookie from Taiwan was 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA in his previous three starts.

He's 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five starts at Camden Yards.

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