Even-keeled Cutch in midst of sustained surge

Even-keeled Cutch in midst of sustained surge

CHICAGO -- Baseball is baseball. That's the gist of what Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen had to say about the good and bad of Friday's 9-4 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The good: McCutchen went 3-for-5 with a double and a two-run ninth-inning home run. His hit streak reached a season-high seven games. He pushed his career hit total against the Cubs to 130 since he entered the league in 2009, more than any other player in baseball.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Cutch and other #ASGWorthy players

The bad: The Pirates lost to the Cubs for the fourth time in four games this season. In those contests, the combined score is 29-9.

"It seems like they've given a lot of people trouble, besides us," McCutchen said. "They're a good team. When we get our opportunities, our chances, we've got to come through."

But don't think McCutchen is going to lose sleep over his team's struggles against the first-place Cubs. He's expressed a similar attitude about just about everything this year.

Early-season slump? He planned to keep focused and let things even themselves out.

Three-homer game in late April? He was locked in on the process.

The Cubs extending their lead on the Pirates to eight games in the middle of May?

"They've just been putting up runs against us and playing really well," McCutchen said. "All you can do is say, 'Oh well,' and move on. It's not going to mess my night up."

It might sound worn or dismissive, but McCutchen also made clear the goal is always to win, and his never-panic approach seems to be working just fine. If baseball is baseball, McCutchen is going to produce.

In the 19 games before his three-homer breakout, McCutchen was hitting .213/.337/.347 and had only five RBIs. Since that time, he's hit six of his eight home runs and driven in 11. His season average remains on a steady climb, now up to .261. Friday, his first two hits came against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who breezed through the Pirates' order for most of his 6 2/3 innings.

"[He was] locating well," McCutchen said. "When you're doing that, it makes it a little tough for us to do what we want. And that's what the game's all about. We hit mistakes, and he didn't make many of them."

McCutchen's ninth-inning homer off sinkerballer Trevor Cahill was too little, too late, this time around. But McCutchen knows the ebbs and flows that come with a long season (he overcame a slow start and knee issue last year to finish fifth in the NL MVP voting) and trusts things tend to work out for both himself and his team.

"It's baseball," McCutchen said. "I'm going to keep saying that all year. It's whatever it is in May. I'm just going to keep going out there and keep doing what I'm doing, and I'll assess all that at the end. It's baseball. Just keep going. Keep playing."

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago who covered the Pirates on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.