PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen just shrugged, claiming "every baseball player just has one of those days." But only nine other players in the 122-year history of the Pittsburgh Pirates have had the kind of day this rookie did.
McCutchen homered three times and had a career-high six RBI, and the Pirates handed the Washington Nationals their fourth straight loss, 11-6 on Saturday night.
"It was one of those days where everything worked, everything went your way," said McCutchen, who doubled his career home run total in one night. "You got your pitches, and I was able to hit them, I was able to get them out.
"It's just a day I know I won't forget. A day I know I'll remember."
McCutchen hit three shots to left - one just inside the foul pole to lead off the first, one with Brandon Moss aboard in the fourth, and another with Moss and Ramon Vazquez on to give Pittsburgh an 11-4 lead in the sixth.
The third home run drew the first curtain call of the season at PNC Park, where only one player (Houston's Vinny Castilla in 2001) had hit three homers in a game.
"It's a special night for him," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I'm glad there was a big crowd and that we won.
"You never [envision] a guy hitting three home runs in one game -- that's just one of those things that happens. But he's got tremendous bat speed and he's got the ability to drive the ball."
With a chance at a record-tying fourth homer in the eighth, McCutchen grounded into a double play.
"I was definitely thinking about it, but I was not going up to bat saying, 'I'm going to hit a home run,"' said McCutchen, a 2005 first-round draft pick who made his major league debut June 4. "I was going up to wait on my pitch looking to drive my pitch. That's what I did the previous at-bats."
Moss and Andy LaRoche each had two hits with two runs and an RBI for Pittsburgh, which has won two straight against Washington since breaking a five-game losing streak.
The 22-year-old McCutchen singled and scored on Lastings Milledge's two-run double in the third and finished 4-for-5 with four runs scored. A leadoff hitter known more for his speed and high batting average, he became the first Pirates player to connect three times in a game since Aramis Ramirez on April 8, 2001, at Houston.
"He's a great athlete," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "You've read about him for a year or two now, and now he's here and he's going to be a force to deal with.
"But we've got to make better pitches than that. He was really on the ball good, but we can't make pitches consistently to him allow him to throw the barrel of the bat out there and do that."
McCutchen's second and third homers highlighted four-run innings.
LaRoche had an RBI triple and Moss added a run-scoring single in the fourth ahead of McCutchen. In the sixth, Cedeno had an RBI grounder.
Virgil Vasquez (2-5) earned the win but didn't pitch well enough to keep his job. He was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis after the game to make room in the rotation for Kevin Hart, whom Pittsburgh acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs Thursday. The Pirates recalled right-hander Steven Jackson from Indianapolis to pitch out of the bullpen.
Vasquez allowed two runs in the first but recovered and was charged with three runs on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts in five innings. He has a 6.09 ERA in seven starts.
"I'll go down, and I'll be ready to come back whenever they need me," Vasquez said. "All I can do is be prepared. I wasn't as dominant as I expected myself to be. I expect a lot of out myself. I expect almost perfection."
Stammen (3-6) allowed six runs on eight hits. The Nationals had won three of his previous four starts.
"These outings... are embarrassing and unacceptable, but you've got to bounce back from it and deal with it," Stammen said.
Darnell Coles was the last Pirates player to hit three homers at home, on Sept. 30, 1987. It has happened 17 times overall in club history.
- Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell each hit three homers in a game four times for Pittsburgh. Roberto Clemente is the only other player in team history to do it twice.
- Elijah Dukes was 0 for 3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in his first game since a month-long demotion to Triple-A Syracuse.