With little fanfare, Cutch having big year

With little fanfare, Cutch having big year

PITTSBURGH -- On Wednesday afternoon, Andrew McCutchen drove home a point: Brightening a child's life matters, as he hung out with 12-year-old Cameron Pittman to make the young Hodgkin's lymphoma patient's wish come true.

On Wednesday night, McCutchen drove in runs -- two of them -- in the Pirates' 7-5 victory over the Cubs. The RBIs gave him 68 for the season, tied for fourth most in the National League.

Quietly -- as quietly as possible for a five-time All-Star, certainly quieter than Bryce Harper, with whom he is now tied for RBIs -- McCutchen could be enjoying his most productive season.

"I'm having a good season, but I don't assess all that until the end of the year," McCutchen said after launching his 16th homer and driving in another run on a sacrifice fly. "I'm stringing together good at-bats, and feel I'm getting stronger as the season continues, and that's always a plus. It comes from learning myself, and getting used to these seasons. Things are coming together."

Cutch's sac fly

They are coming together well enough that McCutchen, who drove in merely 14 runs through the first 30 games, could be on his way to his first career 100-RBI season. The 68 he has now are the most he has recorded through game No. 106; his previous high was 66, in 2012, when he wound up with 96.

"I'm just trying to have good at-bats, take what they give me, that's it," said McCutchen, who added of 100 RBIs, "If it happens, cool, but it's definitely not what I'm going for. It's not a goal of mine."

But it is a goal of his manager. Clint Hurdle was stunned after the end of that 2012 season to realize that McCutchen had led the league with 194 hits yet couldn't convert them into at least 100 RBIs. It just didn't add up for Hurdle, who began to prioritize a top of the order that would enhance McCutchen's run-producing chances.

Having Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte as 1-2 hitters appears to be working. Neither is an on-base giant, but both possess the kind of speed that has them in scoring position whenever they do get on base.

"It's been good," McCutchen said of the lineup configuration. "When the guys get on, it's my job to hit them in, so getting those guys on base gives me opportunities to drive in some runs."

Hurdle is somewhat conflicted whenever he puts Polanco and Marte atop the batting order; they rank sixth and fourth, respectively, among his regulars in on-base percentage.

"But I like having that speed dynamic at the top," he said. "I believe in it, although the men have to go out and play. Andrew has done a wonderful job this year hitting with runners in scoring position."

To be exact, McCutchen is batting .400 with men on second and/or third, about 100 points above what he hit in those situations last season.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.