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Crushin' Cutch hits 3 homers as Bucs roll

MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Celebrating his 60th birthday Sunday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle received a handful of gifts from his team: three home runs from Andrew McCutchen, seven strong innings from Gerrit Cole and a much-needed, 7-1 win over the Padres at Petco Park. And, yes, a cake, delivered by club staff to his office in the visitor's clubhouse.

McCutchen's third career three-homer performance backed Cole's strong start to carry the Pirates past the Padres, snapping San Diego's four-game winning streak and ending Pittsburgh's four-game skid. After leaping back into the National League Central race, the Pirates struggled through a 3-6 West Coast road trip. But Sunday's victory at least sent them home, and into Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, on a positive note.

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SAN DIEGO -- Celebrating his 60th birthday Sunday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle received a handful of gifts from his team: three home runs from Andrew McCutchen, seven strong innings from Gerrit Cole and a much-needed, 7-1 win over the Padres at Petco Park. And, yes, a cake, delivered by club staff to his office in the visitor's clubhouse.

McCutchen's third career three-homer performance backed Cole's strong start to carry the Pirates past the Padres, snapping San Diego's four-game winning streak and ending Pittsburgh's four-game skid. After leaping back into the National League Central race, the Pirates struggled through a 3-6 West Coast road trip. But Sunday's victory at least sent them home, and into Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, on a positive note.

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"To have two of your best players go out there and have the performance they did today, Andrew and Cole, it makes the game look easy," Hurdle said. "And it's not."

Each of McCutchen's home runs were solo shots against a left-hander. His first came in the first inning against Clayton Richard, providing the Pirates a lead they didn't relinquish as they remained 5 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central race.

"It feels good, man. Done it before. It's cool to be able to do it again," McCutchen said. "We need a 'W' every day we're out there, but we definitely needed one today."

McGrath has strong debut for Padres

His second and third came against reliever Jose Torres, but the two weren't similar. He crushed a 3-1 pitch from Torres a Statcast-projected 424 feet in the eighth, his third-longest of 2017, while his ninth-inning homer dinked off the right-field foul pole. At 333 feet, it was the shortest this year at Petco Park.

"He's good, there's no doubt about that," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We've missed against him, and that's what good hitters do when you make a mistake."

Between McCutchen's first two homers, Jose Osuna tripled in a pair in the sixth before scoring on Jordy Mercer's single. Josh Bell's pinch-hit blast off Torres preceded McCutchen's third shot.

Video: PIT@SD: Bell hits a solo home run in the 9th

Cole lowered his July ERA to 2.25 with seven one-run innings, striking out eight as he ended a start with an ERA below 4.00 for the first time since May 27. The Padres could do little against Cole before Dusty Coleman's seventh-inning home run.

New Cutch proving better than old Cutch

"It was big to try to salvage this a little bit," Cole said. "I just feel good to be able to do my job and keep taking the ball."

Video: PIT@SD: Cole K's 8, allows one run over seven frames

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Osuna Matata: Richard put himself in trouble to begin the sixth by walking McCutchen before David Freese grounded a single into right. Osuna then laced a pitch into right-center. The hit was likely to at least score McCutchen from second, but right fielder Hunter Renfroe took a poor angle to the ball, allowing it to trickle deeper into the outfield, where center fielder Manuel Margot had his own troubles with it, as well. It ended up as a two-run triple for Osuna, tying him for the team lead with four, and Hurdle credited his hit as "the separation that we were looking for throughout the game."

"Fell behind to McCutchen a couple times, and that hurt," said Richard, who has an 8.29 ERA in his past six starts. "I think that's really what changed the game, was not getting ahead to him. Gave up the home run there to him [in the first], and then the walk to him changed the outlook of that inning, so those two at-bats pretty much won the game for them."

Video: PIT@SD: Osuna triples to right-center to score two

Andrew's answer: After Coleman hit his second homer among his first four Major League hits, the Padres were back within three. Torres fell behind against McCutchen to start the inning, and the veteran outfielder -- who also walked twice Sunday -- crushed the rookie's 3-1 pitch to center for his 21st home run of 2017 to again provide the Pirates with a four-run advantage. It was the 15th time McCutchen homered more than once in a game.

"You're going to get rewarded sometimes. You just keep having good at-bats, keep trying to do the same thing over and over," McCutchen said. "I've preached it since June. Just doing the same thing, trying to do the same thing over and over. Not necessarily focused on the outcome. Just focused on the preparation and being ready every pitch. That's all I'm trying to do. I was rewarded today."

QUOTABLE
"I don't think that's why he did it. I'll take it and run with it, though. I will remember. They'll say, 'Anything significant happen on your 60th birthday?' Yeah, McCutchen hit three home runs at Petco Park!"-- Hurdle, on McCutchen's performance taking place on his birthday

"Every time the phone was ringing, my stomach was dropping a little bit. The anticipation kept building and building. But it's good to get that one out of the way." -- Padres left-hander Kyle McGrath, on having to wait a couple of days to pitch before a perfect seventh inning in his Major League debut

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
McCutchen's first-inning homer gave him 20 on the year, the seventh straight season he's reached that mark. The only Pirate with more consecutive 20-homer seasons is Hall of Fame member Willie Stargell, who did so 13 straight years from 1964 to 1976.

Albert Pujols is the only active player with more three-homer games than McCutchen's trio. Pujols has four such performances.

SAN DIEGO'S DIVE AND D
The Padres' infield showed off defensively in the eighth, with shortstop Coleman and first baseman Jose Pirela making impressive plays.

With one out in the frame, Osuna hit a grounder that seemed it would slip between Coleman and third baseman Yangervis Solarte, but Coleman ranged to his right and fired across his body to nab Osuna.

The inning came to an end when Pirela dove into the stands to catch a foul popup.

Video: Must C Catch: Pirela crashes into stands for grab

UPON REVIEW
After hitting a chopper to third in the fifth, Richard began to slowly trot toward first, making little effort to reach safely, but Freese bounced his throw across the field. As Osuna bobbled the ball, Richard continued his jog, ruled safe as Bell struggled to pick up the ball. A 1-minute, 45-second review determined Osuna had the ball in his bare hand and his foot on the bag barely before Richard reached first base, and Richard was called out.

Video: PIT@SD: Richard safe at first, Pirates challenge

WHAT'S NEXT
Pirates: The Pirates are off Monday, but general manager Neal Huntington and the rest of Pittsburgh's front office will be busy before the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Bucs likely will walk the line between buyers and sellers, as they did last year. They will return to the field Tuesday night at PNC Park, where right-hander Jameson Taillon will take the mound to begin a three-game series against the Reds.

Padres: With an off-day Monday, general manager A.J. Preller and the rest of the Padres' front office will have all of their attention on the non-waiver Trade Deadline at 1 p.m. PT. Left-handed reliever Brad Hand, right-handed starter Jhoulys Chacin and others could be had, leaving San Diego's roster in different shape by the time they face the Twins at 4:05 p.m. PT Tuesday.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego..