PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen is back and, if last month was any indication, as good as ever.McCutchen's resurgence was recognized Monday, when he was named the National League Player of the Month for June. This is McCutchen's fifth monthly award and his first such honor since August 2015. No other
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen is back and, if last month was any indication, as good as ever.
McCutchen's resurgence was recognized Monday, when he was named the National League Player of the Month for June. This is McCutchen's fifth monthly award and his first such honor since August 2015. No other Pirates player has won the award five times. Jose Pujols is the only active player to win the NL award six times
In 26 games last month, McCutchen hit .411/.505/.689 with six home runs and 23 RBIs while finishing with more walks (17) than strikeouts (12). He led the NL in average, OBP and OPS (1.193) while ranking sixth in RBIs among hitters with at least 90 plate appearances. In two games in July, he's added a pair of doubles. The train keeps on rolling.
Changes in McCutchen's pre-game regimen may have played a part, as he began decreasing his workload before games. When players struggle uncharacteristically, as McCutchen did in the first two months of the season, sometimes they press, trying do too much. Instead, McCutchen did less.
"I don't do that as much," he said of various pre-game hitting exercises and workouts. "So now I know what I need to do, I know what I need to feel because of the results that I've been getting."
"It's the Andrew we've seen for a long time, which is really fun," general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday. "The explosiveness. The athleticism. The ability to stay on offspeed [pitches] away, fastballs away. The ability to use the whole field with authority. And the swagger.
"It's fun to see Andrew being Andrew again. It's hard to argue with what he's done. He's carried us offensively here for a while now and hopefully will continue for a while in the future."
On the field, this past month may have been even more impressive than McCutchen's July 2012 -- when he slashed .446/.510/.739 with seven homers -- considering the slow start he overcame to get there.
After going 0-for-5 on May 23 in Atlanta, McCutchen's average fell to .200, his OPS to .630. He spent two days out of the starting lineup after that and worked to address a flaw in his swing, then batted sixth when he returned.
From May 26 through Saturday, McCutchen batted .400 with a 1.199 OPS, eight homers and more walks than strikeouts. He improved his average to .282 and his OPS to .866. Last Tuesday, he returned to the No. 3 spot in Pittsburgh's lineup.
His early season struggles were uncharacteristic. His .205 May batting average was his fourth worst in any month of his career. But for him, those early season problems don't make the award any more special. He's taking it day-by-day, not month-to-month.
"It doesn't mean more to me because of what I did or where I came from," McCutchen said. "Matter of the fact is one month I did something, I'm not looking at overall what I was doing prior and where I am now."
"I don't think it was the best [month], but it's up there. It was good," McCutchen said Friday.
Even after Starling Marte's return later this month, McCutchen will remain in center field. Slugging from the three-hole, patrolling center field, does it feel like things are back to normal for the face of the Pirates' franchise?
"Like I said a long time ago, I knew I was going to be better. I expected to be better, and now I'm better," McCutchen said Sunday. "But it's not a surprise for me. I'm just showing up every day and getting my work in. I really don't think of anything outside of that -- where I hit in the order, where I play in the outfield. I'm just here and I'm ready to play."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.