Nearly everyone played a part in the Pirates' 10-3 win over the Giants on Monday night at AT&T Park, but a pair of big swings by Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer defined the current depth of Pittsburgh's lineup.From the young rotation to a more stable back end of the bullpen,
Nearly everyone played a part in the Pirates' 10-3 win over the Giants on Monday night at AT&T Park, but a pair of big swings by Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer defined the current depth of Pittsburgh's lineup.
From the young rotation to a more stable back end of the bullpen, improved pitching has been the key to the Pirates' recent surge. But with McCutchen producing in the heart of the lineup and Mercer contributing from the eight-hole, the Bucs are more dangerous from top to bottom.
"This offense is good. We've shown that," McCutchen said. "We've done a good job as of late. We can be a really good team when we do that more consistently. Not saying we're always going to score 10 runs, but we definitely have the talent to be able to do that and we have the makeup to do it."
McCutchen launched a three-run homer to left-center field in the second inning off right-hander Player Page for Matt Cain, putting the game out of reach early. Mercer lined a three-run shot to left against lefty Josh Osich in the eighth, putting the game away.
"It was good to tack on a few more and take a deep breath," Mercer said.
Two months ago, McCutchen and Mercer were both working their way out of deep slumps. On May 21, Mercer was batting .203 with a .585 OPS. Two days later, McCutchen's average sank to .200 and his OPS to .630.
Confident all along in his approach, Mercer insists he changed nothing. He didn't need to, evidently. In his last 53 games, Mercer is hitting .313. His 3-for-5, three-RBI night in San Francisco raised his average on the year to .267 and his OPS to .768, third-best among qualified National League shortstops.
"When you can score from the top and the bottom, the length of your lineup plays," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Mercer has done a very, very good job offensively. ... He can make some things happen down there for us."
Given two days to rest and work on his swing, McCutchen turned his season around. Since May 26, he has been one of the Majors' best hitters. He has hit .374 in his last 51 games, and his .893 OPS now ranks eighth among qualified NL outfielders.
McCutchen's homer off Cain was his 18th of the year, tied with Josh Bell for the team lead. He drove in four runs, bringing his season total to 61 and putting him on pace for a career-high 98 RBIs.
"It's the guys in front of me, honestly," McCutchen said, crediting Starling Marte and Josh Harrison. "When they're doing that and getting on base constantly, over and over and over, it gives me the chance to be able to lock in and put a swing on the ball."
With Marte, Harrison and McCutchen producing up top, Josh Bell and David Freese holding down the middle of the lineup and Francisco Cervelli chipping in with Mercer at the bottom of the order, the Pirates lineup may be hitting its stride at the right time.
The Bucs have won 13 of their last 17 games, and Monday's win pulled them back to .500 exactly 100 games into the season. They will enter Tuesday's matchup against Madison Bumgarner only 2 1/2 games behind the NL Central-leading Brewers, confident they can close the gap.
"We're in a great position right now in our division. It's been good," McCutchen said. "Everyone's showing up. Everyone's ready to win. That's been the feeling here for quite some time now."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.