Cubs-Pirates Preview

There doesn’t appear to be any stopping Andrew McCutchen right now.

McCutchen will try to get the best of Jeff Samardzija as the Pittsburgh Pirates wrap up a four-game home set against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.

Arguably no one has been swinging a hotter bat than McCutchen, who is batting .421 with six homers, seven doubles and 12 RBIs in 10 games this month. The reigning NL MVP went deep for the third time in as many days Wednesday, finishing 2 for 2 with two RBIs, two walks and his eighth stolen base in a 4-2 victory.

"I’m just seeing the ball, hitting the ball," he said. "I’m in a spurt where I’m feeling really good right now.”

McCutchen has gone 11 for 22 with eight extra-base hits and nine RBIs during a six-game hitting streak at home, where his .438 average since April 21 leads active players.

"He’s hot," manager Clint Hurdle said. "When he gets his pitch, he’s not missing."

McCutchen is 10 for 26 against Samardzija (2-5, 2.54 ERA), who is coming off his second win in three outings after a frustrating start to the year. The right-hander yielded two runs and five hits over seven innings to beat Miami 5-2 on Saturday, striking out eight.

"The best thing as a starting pitcher you can have is consistency – that every time you go out there your coach and your teammates know what you’re going to give them," he said. "That’s what I want to do."

Samardzija owns a 3.79 ERA on the road, more than two runs higher than his home mark of 1.64. He is 3-1 with a 0.69 ERA in five career starts at PNC Park, though.

Samardzija has gone 0-3 with a 3.09 ERA in his last five starts against the Pirates (31-34) overall while receiving a combined two runs of support. He scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings in a 1-0, 10-inning defeat at Pittsburgh on opening day.

Samardzija has held Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmes hitless in a combined 19 at-bats in their matchups. Ike Davis, however, is 3 for 6 with two homers and a double.

Edinson Volquez (3-5, 4.27) had gone 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA over a three-start stretch before allowing four runs and four hits over six innings in Saturday’s 9-3 loss to Milwaukee. The right-hander pitched well aside from yielding three runs in the fourth.

"I left a couple of pitches right in the middle of the plate," Volquez said. "I’ve got to do a better job than that."

Volquez is 5-0 with a 3.60 ERA in nine games – eight starts – versus Chicago (26-37) after throwing two scoreless innings of relief in a 3-2 loss April 3. However, his last start against the Cubs matched the shortest of his career as he surrendered six runs before exiting with two outs in the first inning with San Diego on Aug. 23.

Anthony Rizzo went 3 for 4 with two doubles against Volquez last season. Rizzo is batting .364 with three homers, eight RBIs and nine runs in the last nine games despite going 0 for 2 on Wednesday.

At 11-22, the Cubs are tied with Tampa Bay for the worst road record in baseball. They have hit .206 in losing six of their last eight away from home.