After a rough end to May, Andrew McCutchen is hoping his first game in June is a promising sign.
The reigning NL MVP will try to build on a stellar performance as the Pittsburgh Pirates open a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Monday night at Petco Park.
McCutchen batted .188 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs in his final nine games last month before a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night. He hit his first homer in 33 games and had a pair of doubles while scoring three runs as the Pirates (26-30) claimed their eighth victory in 12 contests.
McCutchen had two extra-base hits in his previous 22 games.
"I haven't been hitting the ball the way I knew I could be, so tonight was a good start for myself," he said. "Just being ready to hit was the biggest key, and getting pitches to hit. I've been a little late, probably because my timing's been off on off-speed pitches. So tonight I got myself in a hitting position and was ready to fire."
He'll next try to add to an eight-game hitting streak at Petco Park. McCutchen is 10 for 31 (.323) during that run and hit .381 with six RBIs in last season's seven matchups with the Padres.
In the teams' first one this season, he'll get to face Tim Stauffer (2-1, 4.50 ERA), who is coming off one of the worst outings of his career. McCutchen tripled in one of his three career at-bats against the right-hander.
Stauffer was charged with seven runs while recording just one out in a 12-6 loss in Arizona on Wednesday. It was the shortest start by a San Diego pitcher who wasn't injured since Brian Tollberg on June 10, 2003, in Cleveland.
That performance was a stark contrast to Stauffer's first start of the season, an 11-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on May 23. Stauffer yielded two hits and one walk in five scoreless innings in that game after previously being used out of the bullpen.
After Wednesday's loss, the Padres (26-31) bounced back to win two straight road games over the Chicago White Sox before falling 4-1 on Sunday. They had just two hits after producing a combined 52 in their previous five contests.
San Diego played without Cameron Maybin, a .303 hitter, after he exited Saturday's 4-2 win with tightness in his right calf.
"Cam is doing a little better, but he's still a little sore," manager Bud Black told the team's website. "So we're going to try and be cautious with this."
Tommy Medica, batting .476 with two homers in his last eight games, left in the eighth inning Sunday with a strained right quad and is expected to examined Monday.
The Pirates will start Charlie Morton (1-7, 3.29), who is hoping to get more run support. After earning his lone win May 23 against Washington, the right-hander gave up three runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings Wednesday in a 5-0 defeat to the New York Mets.
Morton has only received 16 runs of support in his last nine starts, but he hasn't needed much help in three career outings against San Diego. He's 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in those matchups and gave up one run over eight innings while striking out nine in his lone meeting last season, a 3-2 loss Sept. 18.
Morton has been tagged for 20 runs in 30 2-3 innings on the road, going 0-4 in five starts.
San Diego has won 22 of 28 over Pittsburgh but lost two of three in the teams' last series at Petco from Aug. 19-21.