Posted July 16, 2012 on AP on Fox
The Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen has been the hottest hitter in baseball over the last month-plus. The All-Star outfielder seems unlikely to cool down with a visit to hitter-friendly Coors Field up next. McCutchen looks to continue his torrid pace as the Pirates and Colorado Rockies open a three-game set Monday night. Batting an MLB-best .458 with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and 30 runs scored since June 10, McCutchen has played a huge role in Pittsburgh's recent success. Despite dropping two of three at Milwaukee over the weekend, the second-place Pirates (49-39) enter this series winners of 11 of 15 and sit one game behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead. McCutchen provided the only offense for Pittsburgh during Sunday's 4-1 defeat, going 3 for 4 with his fifth homer in four games. "He is as good a player as there is in the league," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who spent the first eight years of his managerial career with Colorado. "He is playing at an elite level, all across the board. He has earned his name being in those (MVP) conversations at this point. But it is still early. We've all got work to do." McCutchen has a chance to become the first Pirate to homer in five straight games since Jose Castillo from May 26-31, 2006. He's batting .429 with a pair of long balls during a modest five-game hitting streak in Colorado, and could be in for another monster series given the Rockies' struggles on the mound. Colorado owns a major league-high 5.25 staff ERA and has surrendered an NL-worst 113 homers. Drew Pomeranz was the latest Rockies starter to get hit hard, giving up all five runs in Sunday's 5-1 loss to Philadelphia. The Rockies (34-54) have compiled a 6.53 ERA while dropping 12 of their last 16 home games. They'll try to bounce back behind Jeff Francis (2-2, 5.19 ERA), who's been possibly their best pitcher of late, going 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA while issuing just three walks over his last five starts spanning 26 innings. "I love playing for this team," Francis told MLB's official website. "They gave me a shot, and so far I've pitched well to take advantage of that. Hopefully, it sticks." Francis, though, wasn't very sharp the last time he took the mound, yielding three runs over five innings of a 4-1 defeat at Washington on July 7. The left-hander is 3-3 with a 6.88 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates, who he hasn't faced since 2010. Pittsburgh counters with Jeff Karstens (2-2, 3.94), who was superb in winning each of his final two outings before the All-Star break. After allowing two runs over seven innings of a 7-3 victory at St. Louis, the right-hander struck out a season-high eight in eight innings of four-hit ball July 5 to defeat Houston 2-0. "When you face a guy that throws 90 with a slow breaking ball, it's not only hard to hit the breaking ball but hard to hit the fastball, too," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "You get caught between those two pitches." Though he's never started against the Rockies, Karstens has had his way with several of their hitters. Tyler Colvin is 0 for 8 lifetime against Karstens, while Carlos Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro are both 0 for 3. Pittsburgh, which took two of three from Colorado at home April 24-25, has won four of six at Coors Field.

Pirates Notebook: Walker Heats Up in July; Why Pitch to McCutchen?

Just like the months in the summer heat up, so does Neil Walker at the plate. After hitting .278 in April and .238 in the month of May, Walker’s bat has started to become red hot in July. “I feel good at the plate,” Walker said. “And I’m happy about that. July is usually a good month for me. When the weather gets hot, I start to feel a lot better.” And the second baseman...

Drew Sutton Adding a Spark to the Top of the Lineup

Drew Sutton – Image Credit: Pittsburgh Pirates Since joining Pittsburgh, Drew Sutton has added a spark at the top of the Pirates lineup. The 28-year-old has had some memorable moments so far, too. Between hitting a walkoff home run — his first long ball since August of 2010 and a moment that he said is the reason you play the game — learning to flash the Zoltan “Z” on the...

First Pitch: Why Starling Marte Might Not Be Ready

It was hard to make the argument a few weeks ago that Starling Marte needed more time. Marte was in the middle of a pretty amazing hot streak. On June 22nd, Marte had a .754 OPS on the year. Over his next nine games he would put up a .450 average and a 1.376 OPS in 40 at-bats. All throughout the hot streak, people were calling for him to be promoted. On June 27th, after Marte went...

The Pittsburgh Pirates: a tale of three half seasons

For the second straight season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have come out of the gates from the All-Star break and found themselves in a tie for first place in the NL Central.  For the second straight season, almost nobody believes they are "for real." In fact, I suspect you'd find more people who think that Santa and the Easter Bunny are "for real"...

Prospect Watch: Starling Marte Just Misses Cycle, Tony Sanchez Hits Fifth Homer

TOP OF THE SYSTEM A look at how the current top 20 prospects did today.  Note that this list doesn’t include players currently in the majors. Rankings are from the mid-season update. 1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Altoona (2-2, 5.17) - DNP 2. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Bradenton (5-7, 4.43) - DNP 3. Starling Marte, CF, Indianapolis (.291) - 3-for-4, 2B, 3B, HR 4. Alen Hanson, SS, West...

Thoughts on Justin Upton and Starling Marte

Over the last week or so and especially this weekend, rumors regarding the Pirates and Arizona’s Justin Upton have been heating up. The Pirates reportedly had a scout in Chicago this week to watch Upton, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark called the Pirates a “serious contender” for the young outfielder. Jon Heyman of CBS, however, reported that there “is nothing serious” between...

Minor League Schedule: 7/17/12

Jeff Locke gets the start tonight for Indianapolis. At the All-Star break, Locke, along with Justin Wilson and Rudy Owens, all had 7-4 records. Locke lost his first start after the break, while Wilson got a no-decision and Owens won last night, in each of their first post-AS starts. West Virginia was rained out yesterday. They will play a doubleheader today consisting of 2 seven...

Weekend of whiffs

 The Pirates looked foolish both at the plate and in the field today, as they fell to the Brewers and dropped their first series in a month. Yovani Gallardo absolutely dominated, cooling down the Bucco bats for the first time in a quite a while. He did it by striking out a startling 14 batters in seven innings (the bullpen added three more K’s). It was ugly; the Pirates tied a...

Final: Rockies 5, Pirates 4

Source: FanGraphs ©2012 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved..

Jayson Stark: Pirates "serious bidder" for Justin Upton

From Jayson Stark: #Pirates emerging as serious bidder for Justin Upton. More on that and other trade buzz on the 12:30 ET edition of Baseball Tonight! — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 15, 2012 #Pirates so serious about Justin Upton they're sending signals they could include Starling Marte in an Upton deal -- but not Cole or Taillon — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July...

Mark Appel Not Signing is Good for Pirates

Whether it was a financial issue, a slight against the Pirates, or the draw of graduating from an elite university with a degree, Mark Appel has decided to go back to Standford and not sign with the Pirates. With this decision, it now makes sense as to why the first seven teams in the draft passed on Appel.  Despite receiving a first overall projection, Appel's stock fell dramatically...

Return to form

The Pirates' first game back from the All-Star break obviously did not go the way they wanted it to last night; James McDonald was wild and the bullpen was not good and they wasted seven runs and three homers and a lead in an ugly 10-7 loss. The way that good teams respond to something like that is they come out the next night and play a better game. Of course, the Pirates have...

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies – Game 89

The Pirates look to close out the season series with the Rockies on a high note, having won the first series 2-1. Today we shall see the battle of the 2-2 Jeffs. First Pitch: 8:40 PM EST Where To Watch:  Root Sports, MLB.TV, Root Sports (Colorado)   Jeff Francis, LHP (31) Oh boy, finally another [...]
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.