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Pittsburgh at Colorado

Venue: Coors Field

Andrew McCutchen's major league-leading batting average and dizzying production are the biggest reasons the Pittsburgh Pirates are pressing for the NL Central lead.

McCutchen looks to put on another hitting display at Coors Field on Wednesday when the Pirates and Colorado Rockies conclude their three-game set.

McCutchen's .374 average is the highest in baseball by 19 points over the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout, and the center fielder's 65 RBIs are one off Carlos Beltran's NL lead.

He has taken a huge step forward after hitting just .259 last year, and his next home run will match his career-high total of 23 from 2011. McCutchen has gone deep six times in his last six games, and he's hitting .500 with nine homers, 19 RBIs and 24 runs in his past 16 contests, with the Pirates (50-40) winning 12 of those.

"He's doing things that are impressive," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's official website. "He's found a stroke with which he is in a good place. It's been fun to watch."

Visiting Denver has kept McCutchen red hot. He has four hits while Pittsburgh and Colorado (35-55) have split the first two games of this series, and he homered for the third time in his last five games at Coors Field in Tuesday's 6-2 win as the Pirates became the fourth team in the NL to 50 wins.

"It's a mile marker along the way," Hurdle said. "There's a bunch of people in there who planned on getting there earlier than we did."

The Pirates are second in the Central, one game back of first-place Cincinnati.

Hurdle hopes James McDonald (9-3, 2.59 ERA) can rebound from one of his worst performances of the season and perhaps pull Pittsburgh even with the Reds.

The right-hander, who has already matched his win total from 31 starts last year, allowed a season-high five runs along with five walks and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings while not getting a decision in Friday's 10-7 loss at Milwaukee. He had won his previous four starts behind a 2.51 ERA while issuing seven walks in 28 2-3 innings.

McDonald is 1-0 with a 2.75 ERA in his last three starts versus the Rockies, but they all came at home. He allowed five runs in five innings in his only previous start in Denver, a win in 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Colorado has dropped five of seven at home, and giving the ball to Jeremy Guthrie (3-9, 6.14) doesn't seem like the best path to improvement.

The right-hander is 1-5 with a 9.23 ERA in eight home games - six starts. Opponents are hitting .365 against him with 12 homers in 39 innings in Denver.

Guthrie's struggles continued Saturday, when he surrendered four runs in the opening inning against Philadelphia at Coors Field. He didn't allow any more runs and ended up pitching 4 2-3 innings, but he still took the loss in an 8-5 defeat.

"I got the longest scoreless streak of my career at Coors, so there are a lot of positives to build on - a career low in runs allowed in a start as well," Guthrie told the Rockies' official website. "You've got to take what you can."

He was charged with a 9-3 road loss while with Baltimore in his only start against the Pirates on June 21, 2011, allowing six runs and 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings. McCutchen singled and walked twice against him.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Probable Starters

James McDonald, RHP
2012 stats
114.2 Innings Pitched 88.0
9-3 Wins-Losses 3-9
2.59 Earned Run Average 6.14
36 Walks 30
102 Strikeouts 44
99 Pitches Per Start 92
Career vs. opponent
31.1 Innings Pitched 6.1
3-1 Wins-Losses 0-1
3.45 Earned Run Average 7.11

Jeremy Guthrie, RHP
weather image  Scattered tstorms late. Partly sunny. Extremely hot.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Pittsburgh2nd NL Central8170.53628-2 W 3
Colorado5th NL West6191.401253-7 W 2
vs Jeremy Guthrie
vs James McDonald
Game Odds
Pittsburgh -105 Colorado -105
P. AlvarezFoot
J. MercerBack
B. AndersonBack
N. ArenadoRibs
J. ChacinShoulder
T. ChatwoodElbow
C. GonzalezKnee
T. KahnleShoulder
B. LoganElbow
T. TulowitzkiThigh
Series Game Log
Apr 4COLCOL 12-2Nicasio Delgado 
Apr 5COLCOL 9-4Kahnle McCarthy 
Apr 6COLARI 5-3Miley Anderson 
Apr 28ARICOL 8-5Morales Miley 
Apr 29ARICOL 5-4Logan Reed 
Apr 30ARIARI 5-4Reed Kahnle 
Jun 3COLARI 4-2Anderson De La Rosa 
Jun 4COLARI 16-8Ziegler Brothers 
Jun 5COLARI 12-7Arroyo Nicasio 
Aug 8ARIARI 5-3Anderson Matzek 
Aug 9ARIARI 14-4Cahill De La Rosa 
Aug 10ARICOL 5-3Belisle Perez 
Aug 29ARIARI 5-2Ziegler Brothers 
Aug 30ARICOL 2-0Matzek Nuno 
Aug 31ARIARI 6-2Anderson De La Rosa 
Sep 18COL 8:40 PM EDT  
Sep 19COL 8:10 PM EDT  
Sep 20COL 4:10 PM EDT  
Sep 21COL 4:10 PM EDT