PITTSBURGH (AP)—A day before he took part in the home run derby as part of the All-Star festivities in Kansas City, Andrew McCutchen put on a show for the home fans.
McCutchen hit two home runs, Neil Walker homered among his five hits and the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the All-Star break in sole possession of first place following a 13-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.
McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers that immediately followed hits by Walker—one to open the scoring in the first and another to make it 12-2 in the seventh.
“I am not going up to bat to hit home runs,” McCutchen said. “I am just trying to put good swings on balls and when I do that, depending on where the pitch is and how my swing is, some balls go out.”
If they don’t go out, they at least drop in for a hit of some sort lately for the red-hot McCutchen, who enters the break on a 21-for-38 (.552) tear. He has multiple hits in six of his past nine games and 23 RBIs in his past 19 games.
All of his team-high 18 home runs have come in the past two months—an NL-high 12 have come with runners on base.
The long-woeful Pirates have won six of seven and 10 of 12, and no team in the majors has a better record since May 12 than Pittsburgh’s 34-19.
“We worked hard to get to where we are, and we’ve earned our way so far,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
A.J. Burnett pitched effectively into the seventh to win his ninth consecutive decision, and Casey McGehee went 3 for 4 with two RBIs for Pittsburgh.
The Pirates (48-37) are 11 games over .500 for the first time since 1992 and are in first place at the break for the first time since 1997. The franchise has endured a North American professional sports record 19 consecutive losing seasons.
The Pirates have gone 11-1-1 in their past 13 series and have won seven consecutive series at PNC Park.
“Seeing what’s going on here, it’s fun to be a part of it,” said Burnett, acquired in an offseason trade from the New York Yankees.
The Giants’ Tim Lincecum failed to get out of the fourth inning for the second consecutive start, getting charged with six runs on seven hits. The two-time Cy Young Award winner enters the break with a 6.42 ERA that is worst in the majors among qualifying starters.
Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer for San Francisco, which has lost five of six and seven of nine.
Burnett (10-2) retired 13 consecutive Giants batters from the first until the sixth. He was lifted after Sandoval hit his eighth homer with Buster Posey aboard in the seventh. Burnett was charged with two runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.
Burnett improved to 6-0 at home and became the second Pirates pitcher since 1993 to win 10 games prior to the All-star break. Pittsburgh has won each of his past 12 outings. Burnett’s winning streak is a career-best.
Walker extended his hitting streak to 12 games—tying a team season high—with a homer, double and three singles. It was the first five-hit game for a Pirates player since Walker did it July 20, 2010.
Walker is hitting .489 (23-for-47) during his streak.
“Days like today can happen,” said Walker, “but certainly five hits is something that comes around very rarely.”
Walker hit his sixth home run with nobody on in the third, and the Pirates chased Lincecum (3-10) with a three-run fourth.
Burnett’s soft liner through the middle with the bases loaded scored McGehee. It was the pitcher’s 10th career RBI and first since Aug. 9, 2005, while with Florida.
Pittsburgh entered the day a game up on the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. Only Washington has a better record among NL teams.