McCutchen having a month that can't be denied

McCutchen having a month that can't be denied

McCutchen having a month that can't be denied
PITTSBURGH -- After authoring a fabulous May, Andrew McCutchen watched the National League's Player of the Month Award go to the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton.

There was only one thing for McCutchen to do:

Dial up his game in June.

Check.

Let the voting begin anew. Perhaps the center fielder will soon have to clear wall space for a plaque as the Bucs' first winner of the monthly award since Pedro Alvarez took it home in September 2010.

After clubbing .360 in May with eight homers and 18 RBIs, McCutchen has gone from blue flame to white in June: After Saturday's 4-1 win over the Tigers, he has a .377 average for the month, with 20 RBIs and nine homers.

The most encouraging aspect of the production for manager Clint Hurdle is the reasonable expectation that it won't stop -- not like a year ago, when McCutchen hit .347 in June, then overreacted to the Pirates' surprising contention and became a .216 hitter in the second half.

"He tried to grab the rest of the lineup and throw it on his back, going for a game-changer every at-bat," Hurdle recalled. "He lost focus, for no other reason than wanting the team to do well. It was a great lesson learned. He's just a better player than he was last season."

With 14 stolen bases to go along with his dozen homers, McCutchen is in the hunt for a 30-30 season, which, as he pointed out during Spring Training, is never a target but would be a by-product of his daily efforts. It would be the club's first 30-30 season since -- and there's that flashback again -- 1992, when Barry Bonds paired 34 homers with 39 steals.

"When you've got speed and power, it's a pretty nice combination," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland, the Pirates' skipper during those Bonds days. "Andrew McCutchen is one of the best in the business, in my opinion. I don't see him all that much. I've seen enough of him to make that judgment. I think he's a great player."

"For power and speed, Matt Holliday in 2007 ranks at the top of my list," said Hurdle, citing his left fielder during his days managing Colorado. "He was the whole package. Andrew is moving himself closer to being that type of player."