Andrew McCutchen looked like Andrew McCutchen again.
After a forgettable month, McCutchen put on a performance Tuesday night to remind everyone why he is the frontrunner for the National League MVP, going 4 for 4 and driving in three runs to help the Pirates break a four-game slide in a 6-2 victory against the Astros at PNC Park.
Not to be outdone, infielder Brock Holt, who one month ago was playing Class AA baseball, went 4 for 5 and scored two runs in only his fourth major league game.
The offense helped underscore another strong start from Wandy Rodriguez, who pitched seven scoreless innings to earn his second consecutive victory. Rodriguez has not allowed a run in his past 13 innings, stretching his past two starts.
He struck out seven batters and allowed four hits Tuesday night.
McCutchen's four-hit game was his sixth of the season and first since July 2. He did not have any four-hit games in 2011.
His strong night boosted his batting average to .347, allowing him to overtake Melky Cabrera, suspended for the remainder of the regular season, for best in the major leagues.
It was the first time he had more than two hits in a game since, before the start of a month that saw the centerfielder hit a season-worst .252. But he sparked the Pirates (71-64) with his second-highest RBI-producing game of the second half.
Two of McCutchen's RBI hits came with two outs, adding to the impressiveness of the evening.
But his night would not have been as fruitful without Holt, who scored on two of McCutchen's hits and is now hitting .462 as a Pirate since being recalled Sept. 1.
Jordan Lyles took the loss for the Astros (42-94), his second in three starts against the Pirates. He allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. In those three starts, Lyles has an ERA of 9.20.
The Pirates dropped three runs on the Astros in the fifth inning to take command of the game. Holt reached first with a one-out double to right field and scored two batters later when McCutchen singled off the glove of an outstretched Brandon Laird at third base.
That single ended Lyles' night. But it didn't end the ugliness for the Astros.
Fernando Rodriguez walked Garrett Jones, the first batter he faced, before getting Pedro Alvarez to pop up toward shortstop.
Then, the Astros did something that made them, well, the Astros -- the worst team in baseball this season. Instead of making an easy catch to end the inning with only one run crossing the plate, second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Tyler Greene bumped into each other, allowing the ball to bounce out of Altuve's glove.
McCutchen and Jones scored as the Pirates went ahead, 6-0.
They added to an early lead in the third inning with McCutchen's second RBI of the game. With one out and runners on first and second, McCutchen slapped a single up the middle of the infield that scored Holt from second base to make it 2-0.
They added to the lead later in the inning when the following batter, Garrett Jones, laced a line drive that Houston shortstop Tyler Greene couldn't contain. The ball rolled into shallow centerfield for a single, allowing Jose Tabata to score from second as the Pirates took a 3-0 lead.
The Pirates first scored in the first inning, but it came at a price. Outfielder Travis Snider appeared to aggravate a hamstring injury while scoring the first run of the game.
Snider reached first base after grounding into a fielder's choice with no outs in the first inning. McCutchen doubled down the left-field line, bouncing off the side wall and ricocheting back into left field.
The hit gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead, but it also forced Snider from the game.
Snider grimaced as he ran around the bases and gingerly walked from home plate to the dugout, where he tossed his helmet to the ground. He left the game with "right hamstring discomfort," according to the Pirates , and was replaced in the field by Jose Tabata to start the second inning.
Snider missed a few games last month with the same injury.
The start of the game was delayed one hour, 15 minutes by a thunderstorm that rolled through the area.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published September 5, 2012 3:30 AM