McCutchen hits 3 homers, Pirates beat Rockies 9-4
DENVER (AP) On his rare off day, Andrew McCutchen cleared his mind and forgot all about his struggles at the plate.
Just like that, McCutchen became the fearsome McCutchen again.
The slumping outfielder hit three homers in his return to the lineup and drove in five runs to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 9-4 on Tuesday night.
Given this kind of success, more rest days for McCutchen may just be in order - not that he necessarily wants to sit on the bench like he did Monday.
''But it was good to have that day to sit back and relax. Just clear my mind,'' McCutchen said.
This was the second time McCutchen has gone deep on three occasions in a game. He also accomplished the feat on Aug. 1, 2009, against Washington.
He joins Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente as the only Pirates with multiple three-run homer games in their career. That's some elite company.
''It's awesome to hit one homer, but to hit three is really cool,'' McCutchen said. ''Just to be with those caliber of players is tremendous. It's a good day to remember.''
The perennial All-Star entered the game in a 3-for-23 funk on this road trip but rediscovered his swing. McCutchen hit solo shots in the first and second innings off starter Jorge De La Rosa (1-3). He also lined a three-run homer off reliever Christian Bergman in the sixth.
The major league record for homers in a game is four, which has been done 16 times and last by Josh Hamilton in 2012. McCutchen had a chance to equal the mark in the eighth but grounded out.
''He's gone through a period where he was getting challenged and kept working and kept looking for the answer, something to get him rolling again. He found something tonight,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Rockies skipper Walt Weiss was hoping McCutchen would wait until after he left town to get his swing back in order.
''Unfortunately, he's rolling again,'' Weiss said.
David Freese and Starling Marte also homered for the Pirates.
Gerrit Cole (2-2) threw six innings and allowed four runs - two earned - to win his second straight start. All the more impressive considering he didn't have his breaking stuff working and so he relied mostly on fastballs.
''Perseverance, resilience, some guts,'' Hurdle said of Cole. ''He was like, `Here we go, old-fashioned baseball boys. Here it is.'''
De La Rosa struggled with his command after fighting off the stomach flu that forced the Rockies to move his start back a day. He gave up four runs in three innings before appearing to tweak his left groin while running out a ground ball in the third. He was taken out for a reliever.
Nolan Arenado had a solo homer for the Rockies, who have lost four straight.
A pivotal play in the game was a perfect strike from Marte in the fifth to preserve the Pirates' lead. With the bases loaded, Arenado sharply singled to left, but Marte threw out a sliding Gerardo Parra at the plate to keep the score 4-3.
In the sixth, McCutchen put the game out of reach with his three-run homer that just cleared the right field wall.
''Confidence is always going to be there. You can't always care about results,'' McCutchen said. ''It's not like I felt myself getting worse. I felt myself getting better and better and better. I knew it was a matter of time.''
Pirates: INF Jung Ho Kang (left knee) hit the first homer of his rehab assignment for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday at Durham.
Rockies: C Nick Hundley wasn't in the lineup Tuesday. He played Monday after being reinstated from the disabled list following a concussion.
TIP OF THE CAP
McCutchen tips his batting helmet after he homers as a way to acknowledge his wife. He said Jackie Robinson used to do a similar thing.
''It's the main reason I do it,'' McCutchen said.
Rookie shortstop Trevor Story was held out of the lineup for the first time this season. After a torrid start, his average has dipped to.247. His eight homers in April, though, are the most by an NL rookie since Albert Pujols hit eight with St. Louis in 2001. Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu holds the major league rookie record for April with 10 in 2014.
Pirates: LHP Jonathon Niese (3-0) is 2-0 on the road heading into his start Wednesday at Coors Field. He's 3-3 with a 5.34 ERA in nine starts against Colorado.
Rockies: RHP Jon Gray (0-0) makes his second start. He began the season on the disabled list with an abdominal strain.