Pirates 6, Astros 2
Just like everybody else.
The All-Star center fielder put together his major league-leading sixth four-hit game of the season and drove in three runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over Houston on Tuesday night.
''It's just all about getting that feeling back,'' McCutchen said. ''It felt pretty good tonight.''
McCutchen has been slumping of late, coinciding with Pittsburgh's dip in the standings. He batted .252 in August after a red-hot July in which he hit .446 to fuel the Pirates' rise to playoff contention.
He preferred not to call it a slump as much as a ''work in progress.'' It's one that took a major tick upward as the Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak to remain 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the National League's second wild card spot.
McCutchen bumped his average to .347, moving him ahead of suspended San Francisco outfielder Melky Cabrera for the best mark in baseball, though he insists he's paying no attention to the race for the batting title. There's too much work to be done for the Pirates.
''That will take care of itself,'' McCutchen said. ''I just need to do what I do here. That's coming out and playing hard. That's all I can worry about.''
McCutchen got some help from rookie Brock Holt - who had four hits in his third major league start - as the Pirates gave Wandy Rodriguez (10-13) plenty of support.
Rodriguez, acquired in a trade from the Astros on July 24, allowed four hits over seven shutout innings. The veteran left-hander struck out seven with just one walk to win for the third time in his past four starts.
''Beating this team is very special for me because I played for the Astros for a long time,'' Rodriguez said. ''When the game started, I don't have any friends.''
Jordan Lyles (3-11) gave up five runs - four earned - in 4 2-3 innings for Houston, which failed to win consecutive games for just the second time since the All-Star break.
''The whole night, the curveball wasn't there for me,'' Lyles said. ''I think it comes down to delivery. I've got to work on being better out of the stretch, and tonight it wasn't there.''
Houston, making its last appearance in Pittsburgh before jumping to the American League next season, sent the Pirates to a 5-1 loss on Monday.
The defeat was Pittsburgh's 10th in 13 games. Another one to the team with the worst record in baseball would have dealt a significant blow to a team chasing a playoff spot for the first time in 20 years.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle worried Rodriguez tried too hard to validate the deal when he first arrived in Pittsburgh. Rodriguez earned a no-decision against his old club in his first start as a Pirate four days after being dealt then went on to lose his next three starts.
A win in relief during a 19-inning marathon in St. Louis on Aug. 19 seemed to get Rodriguez back on track, and he's been one of Pittsburgh's best starters the past three trips through the rotation.
''Wandy was a guy we needed to be on and he was,'' Hurdle said. ''After the first inning, very rhythmic, very in tempo, very in sync.''
Rodriguez looked a little shaky early on following a 75-minute rain delay. Jose Altuve singled to lead off the game then stole second. Justin Maxwell walked with two outs, but Jason Castro grounded to short and from there Rodriguez cruised. Houston never got a runner to third over Rodriguez's final six innings.
Lyles wasn't so fortunate.
McCutchen put the Pirates up 1-0 in the first on an RBI double. Two innings later he gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead when he singled home Holt. Garrett Jones followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Pittsburgh added three more in the fifth as the worst team in baseball committed a costly mistake.
One problem. Altuve, who was at second, and shortstop Tyler Greene couldn't decide who was going to catch it. The two players bumped into each other just as the ball caromed off Greene's glove. Two runs scored and the Astros were finished.
''That's a fly ball I should have,'' Greene said. ''I just think we had just maybe a, you know, guys in different spots, maybe some miscommunication, but that's my responsibility being the shortstop out there. I've got to take charge, take control of what's going on.''
NOTES: Walker is on track for a possible return by the weekend. Walker hasn't played since Aug. 26 due to a balky back ... Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez was the NL Player of the Week after going 11 for 24 (.458) with four home runs .. The series wraps on Wednesday. Houston's Fernando Abad (0-2, 4.83 ERA) faces Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia (9-8, 4.40).
Follow Will Graves on twitter at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP