MIAMI — Sitting on the outfield grass after making a smooth sliding catch, Andrew McCutchen matter-of-factly threw the ball in, rolled over, did a push-up and returned to his position.
The game is not supposed to be this easy, and it isn’t. Right now, though, McCutchen is making it look simple.
“Getting a pitch to hit and hitting it,” McCutchen said of the impetus behind his offensive tear.
“As long as you keep things the same, you simplify as much as you can, you have some basic things that you do for yourself, that’s all that matters.”
McCutchen and the offense drove the Pirates to their fourth win in a row and fifth out of six, an 8-6 victory against the Miami Marlins Saturday at Marlins Park. The win gave the Pirates (34-34) a .500 record for the first time since April 17, when they were 8-8.
The Pirates, who led the National League in on-base percentage since May 1 entering the game and ranked second in the league on the season, kept right on hitting. Every starter had a hit, and seven had more than one. For the sixth consecutive game the Pirates recorded at least 10 hits and they set a new season high with 18.
“You get that many people on base,” McCutchen said, “you can do a lot.”
McCutchen went 2 for 4 with a home run, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and his streak of multi-hit games to seven. He has an extra-base hit in six of his past seven games. In the month of June, McCutchen is hitting .415 with seven home runs and nine doubles. His average, which was .298 May 31, is now .323.
The outfield trio atop the lineup — Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and McCutchen — kept the pressure on opposing pitchers. They went 6 for 14 Saturday and have gone 21 for 47 with two doubles and three home runs in the three games since manager Clint Hurdle set the order that way.
“For the most part, we got guys at the top of the lineup that are getting on base and doing the job right now,” McCutchen said. “When we have that, we can do big things.”
Jordy Mercer homered just to the left of the Marlins’ multicolor home run statue in the second. Two innings later, McCutchen drove one into the Clevelander club in left field with two men on base, and the Pirates led, 5-0. The Pirates chased Marlins starter Randy Wolf (1-3) after five runs and nine hits in four innings, and they scored three more runs off reliever Kevin Slowey in the fifth.
“It’s a lot of fun right now,” said Mercer, who also doubled. “It’s a lot of fun playing the way we’re playing.”
Josh Harrison went 3 for 5 in his first game back after turning his left ankle Wednesday and Chris Stewart went 3 for 4. Polanco, Marte and Pedro Alvarez also had two hits. Polanco has a hit in each of his first five major league games and Marte extended his hitting streak to six.
Charlie Morton (4-7) became the third consecutive starter to complete at least seven innings. He allowed two runs and five hits, three walks and a hit batter.
After allowing two runs in the fourth, Morton retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced. Morton induced nine ground-ball outs and his defense helped by turning a season-high three double plays.
“I got some ground balls in crucial situations,” Morton said. “They hit the ball to spots where we could turn two.”
The game was not as close as the final score indicated for the first eight innings, after which the Pirates had an 8-2 lead. Stolmy Pimentel allowed two two-run home runs in the ninth inning in his first game back from the disabled list, forcing the Pirates to again turn to Jason Grilli after starting the ninth with a sizable lead.
“We wanted Stolmy to pitch,” Hurdle said. “You can do different things if you don’t want guys to pitch, but everybody’s got to contribute out there.”
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.
First Published June 14, 2014 7:25 PM