McCutchen entered Saturday hitting .183 with only one multi-hit game in his past 16 games. He had hit only one home run in his past 25 games. His .266 slugging percentage dating to May 28 ranked fourth lowest in baseball, ahead of only Billy Burns (.263), Yadier Molina (.237) and Ben Revere (.228).
For the season, McCutchen was hitting .239 with a .717 OPS and a 25 percent strikeout rate. He has hit below .260 in a season only once (in 2011), and his worst OPS over a full season is .814. His strikeout pace was for 170, far more than the career-high 133 times he struck out last season. In fact, McCutchen’s overall performance this season was sub-replacement level, at -0.2 wins above replacement.
But games like Saturday’s against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda may get McCutchen back on the plus side.
His two home runs were his first at PNC Park since May 2.
Handling the heat
The first home run came on a 3-2 curveball. The second came on a fastball. McCutchen’s power against offspeed pitches is a near-match for years past, but his power against fastballs has lessened quite a bit. His slugging percentage against them is .420 this season, far from his .561 rate from 2009 to 2015.
In practical terms, consider this: McCutchen has averaged 15 home runs and 35 extra-base hits against fastballs the past seven seasons. This season, he has four homers and 10 extra-base hits against those pitches.
His sweet spot
When it comes to fastballs, McCutchen’s area of strength is pitches that are down and in. Though he’s still getting hits on pitches to that spot, he hadn’t turned on any with authority all season.
Saturday marked the first time all season that McCutchen hit a down-and-in fastball (classified as “below the lower half of the strike zone and on the inner half of the strike zone or just off the inside corner”) for a home run. He had six home runs off those fastballs in 2014, seven in 2015.
Did you know?
McCutchen joined Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard as the two players to hit a pair of home runs in a game against Maeda.