PITTSBURGH -- After a two-day hiatus from the starting lineup, Andrew McCutchen's early returns are rather positive while hitting in the six-hole.
In his second game in his new spot in the lineup, McCutchen went 2-for-3 with a home run, double, walk and hit-by-pitch in Saturday's 5-4 win over the Mets.
"He had good swings tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He squared some balls up. Good takes. It was a good night. Hopefully he can build on it. …He just needs to keep playing."
McCutchen was held to one pinch-hit appearance in Wednesday's and Thursday's games, when Hurdle kept him out of the starting lineup to give him time to work on his swing with hitting coach Jeff Branson. Before that break, he was mired in a 1-for-20 slump and was slashing a career-worst .200/.271/.359.
Sixth in the lineup is the lowest he's hit in his nine-year career. It's also the first time in more than two years he hit anywhere other than his customary third.
Although he only went 1-for-4 in Friday's game, McCutchen got things started for the Pirates in the second inning Saturday night when he barreled a fastball over the plate 428 feet to center field with an exit velocity of 105.1 mph, according to Statcast™. That was his second-hardest hit and second-longest homer of the season.
"I just think it takes time," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "We're still pretty early in the season. We've still got three and a half months to go. You can get hot pretty quick and still be fine. He had those couple days off where he cleared his mind and was able to work on a couple things. Him and Brando got together and made a couple of adjustments, and it looks like it's paying off."
McCutchen kept the offense rolling in the sixth inning when he doubled in Josh Bell to cut the Mets' lead to two. His only out came on his second barrel of the game, a laser to center field than Juan Lagares tracked down to end the eighth inning.
But McCutchen's big game did come with one blunder. When he was on second base with two outs in the sixth, Francisco Cervelli hit a hard grounder that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was able to knock down, and McCutchen ran through third-base coach Joey Cora's stop sign. In a moment of overaggressive baserunning, he ran into the final out of the inning.
"He actually, Joey was holding him," Hurdle said. "He actually felt Cabrera was going to make the same play that he made on Cervelli last night. Knowing he had some time, maybe backhand the ball, take advantage of the throw, but it didn't happen."