CINCINNATI -- The placard above Andrew McCutchen's locker was replaced by a handwritten one on Saturday morning. The new one read: McKKKKutchen.
It was a teammate's light-hearted way of reminding the Pirates centerfielder that he went down on strikes four times in Friday's win over the Reds. Fortunately, McCutchen, who avoided the dubious distinction of becoming the third player in franchise history to strike out five times in a nine-inning game when he put the ball in play in the eighth, seemed to take the ribbing in stride.
While McCutchen's night wasn't pretty on the stat sheet, it hardly concerned Clint Hurdle. In fact, the Pirates manager actually liked most of what he saw. In particular, McCutchen's ability to maintain a desired position with his head, feet and hands on the pitches he didn't swing at is a sign, Hurdle believed, that McCutchen is not going to be stuck in this current funk for long.
"I thought he was tracking the ball better," Hurdle said. "He didn't get too big. They did pitch him pretty effectively, as well. I'm hoping that will spark him a little bit. I think it will."
McCutchen, who has just two hits in his last 28 at-bats, was back in the leadoff spot on Saturday for the second time in as many days.
"It's funny how certain things will spark someone," Hurdle said. "If nothing else, the ire of going 0-for-5 with four punchouts, that can light a fuse, too. He's got a lot of professional pride, and I expect this thing to turn around sooner rather than later."