Cutch finds power stroke, breaks out of slump

Center fielder's first homer since May 27 comes in Bucs' 6-4 loss to Mets

June 17th, 2016

NEW YORK -- Andrew McCutchen doesn't have any secrets. The five-time All-Star's approach to hitting has always been the same, from his days playing in the backyard as a kid to the Major Leagues.

"I didn't think of stats, I didn't think about mechanics," McCutchen said. "I just tried to hit the ball when it came to me."

That, in addition to unwavering self-belief, has been the foundation of McCutchen's sterling career and helped him win the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2013. And it's what helped him break out of a lengthy slump with his first three-hit game since May 17 in the Pirates' 6-4 loss to the Mets at Citi Field on Thursday night.

"You need to have high confidence to play this game and to be able to stay here," McCutchen said. "Regardless of outcome, regardless of situations or results, my confidence is always up."

Entering Thursday, though, no one would've faulted McCutchen for harboring a bit of self-doubt. He hadn't recorded a hit during the series; in fact, he hadn't had a hit or a walk in five games and was batting .140 in June.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle even pushed McCutchen from second to third in the lineup Wednesday, a move that contradicted the team's thinking early in the season. Pittsburgh's strategy was to place McCutchen higher in the order to get him more at-bats.

McCutchen wasn't the only Pirates hitter who was struggling against the Mets' pitchers. Pittsburgh mustered just five hits in Wednesday's 11-2 loss.

The shift didn't pay off at first, as McCutchen went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Wednesday. But McCutchen turned things around in a loud way on Thursday, capped by a solo shot to open the ninth that cut the Mets' lead to 6-3. It was his first dinger since May 27.

"It was good to see McCutchen swing the bat like that," Hurdle said. "Absolutely."

The Pirates scored once more in the ninth, but they couldn't tie the game against Mets closer Jeurys Familia. Regardless, McCutchen's big night provided a bright spot.

If there was one reason for the turnaround, McCutchen suggested, it was his approach. There was nothing wrong mentally or physically. He didn't alter his swing, and he didn't put much thought to hitting third.

But recently, McCutchen did notice he hadn't been "doing the same thing," during at-bats, instead of taking note of miscues and acting accordingly.

"Might be late on an at-bat; before I just would do the same thing, I'd try to mimic and be this perfect person when I was up there," McCutchen said. "As opposed to, 'Oh, I'm late on that one, I need to make an adjustment.' And get my foot down and be on time."

Thursday night, for the first game in a while, he was on time.