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McCutchen takes responsibility for offensive struggles

Pirates have managed only five runs in four May games
MLB.com @Tom_Singer

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' offensive struggles reached a new low Tuesday night, when they were held by the Reds to three hits and another quiet one-run effort in a 7-1 loss at PNC Park.

The Pirates have totaled five runs in the month of May, in which they have played 44 innings and held a lead after only four of them. It is a team slump.

Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' offensive struggles reached a new low Tuesday night, when they were held by the Reds to three hits and another quiet one-run effort in a 7-1 loss at PNC Park.

The Pirates have totaled five runs in the month of May, in which they have played 44 innings and held a lead after only four of them. It is a team slump.

Full Game Coverage

But not to Andrew McCutchen, who shouldered the blame after the latest loss.

"I take full responsibility for how we're playing. I know I'm a big part of it," McCutchen said after going 0-for-4 and seeing his average dwindle to .185. "I'm sick and tired of going 0-for-4. This isn't acceptable.

"It ain't fun making right turns, especially when you're used to making left ones. Right now, I'm not doing what I should be doing for the money I'm making. I'm getting paid because of the way I should be playing ball, and right now I'm not doing it.

"Right now, it's under mediocre. It's bad. But once it gets going, it ain't gonna stop."

Oddly, McCutchen had begun the game with a five-game hitting streak, his best of the young season. But he knew it was a streak of soft hits, not the loud damage for which he is known. And Tuesday's hitless game was his 12th of the season -- half of the games in which he has appeared.

This is a four-time All-Star coming off three consecutive seasons in baseball's stratosphere: a slash line of .300/.400/.500, representing batting, on-base and slugging percentages. His current line is .185/.280/.293.

Two related theories have been advanced for his struggles: The "lower-body discomfort" that curtailed his Spring Training, in turn, leaving him lacking the sufficient at-bats to start the season.

Manager Clint Hurdle was more accepting of that scenario than the player himself.

"It is the least number of at-bats (32) he's had to get ready," Hurdle said. "But he's had more, without having good Aprils in the past. We tried to get him as many [Spring Training at-bats] as we could. So I don't know if that plays into it."

"I wasn't able to get the at-bats I wanted because of injury. That is the sense of it," McCutchen allowed. "At the same time, I'm not blaming it on that. I'm not performing, and I need to get out there and do the things I know I can do."

Possible evidence of physical limitations of which he may not even be conscious is that, all season, he has pulled only one ball hard to left, most of his better drives going to right-center. That's a pretty good indication of lacking a good foundation since, as the saying goes, "you actually hit with your legs."

"I feel strong. I feel good when I'm in there, when I'm hitting," McCutchen said. "I'm not saying my legs or whatever are hindering me from driving the ball that way I want to. I feel great -- but right now, the ball isn't jumping, I'm not squaring it up, the way I should be."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen