MILWAUKEE -- Getting a spot start in place of Jeff Karstens on Wednesday, right-hander Daniel McCutchen impressed as he tossed six shutout innings in the Pirates' 5-2 victory over the Cardinals at PNC Park.
His manager was equally impressed by McCutchen's performance in relief leading up to the starting opportunity.
"I think he showed a lot more confidence out of the bullpen," Russell said. "I thought he threw the ball pretty well. I think it kind of helped set up his start."
McCutchen's start was his first since July 31, also against the Cardinals. In that start, which was in St. Louis, McCutchen went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits. McCutchen struck out just one batter while walking six as he took the loss.
In eight starts this season, McCutchen owns a 6.92 ERA -- giving up 30 earned runs over 39 innings of work on his way to a 2-5 record with 20 walks and 20 strikeouts. As a reliever, McCutchen has an impressive 1.74 ERA -- allowing just two runs on 11 hits over 10 1/3 innings of work in nine appearances.
"He was more aggressive. He was hitting his spots. I don't think he was worried how deep he was going to go in the game," Russell said. "I think he was just out there one hitter at a time, one inning at a time. I think that's a good lesson that he learned from the bullpen -- and if he does start again, it's something he can draw onto.
"It is one pitch at a time. Execute this pitch, go to the next pitch."
LaRoche gets start against Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- With the Brewers sending a left-handed starter to the mound on Friday against the Pirates, manager John Russell thought it would be a good time to give Pedro Alvarez the night off.
More importantly, though, Russell saw it as a good chance to get Andy LaRoche a start.
"Andy hasn't played much," Russell said. "We've been pinch-hitting him quite a bit -- and I'd like to get him some at-bats so he feels a little more comfortable at the plate. We've been looking at it over the last four or five days moving into this week what would be a good day.
"With [Chris] Narveson pitching today, we thought it would be a good day to get Andy in there and get Pedro a day off."
While Russell hopes the start will help LaRoche, he sees plenty of benefits in it for Alvarez as well.
"It's not so much [that] Pedro needs the rest, it was more about getting Andy in the game," Russell said. "[But] letting Pedro watch again, those young guys when they sit, they can learn a lot."
This month, LaRoche has started just two games, once at first base and another time at third base. His last start came Aug. 10 at first base against the Padres in San Diego. Since then, he's pinch-hit 10 times -- going 1-for-10 with a single and two strikeouts.
As a pinch-hitter this season, LaRoche has gone 4-for-28 with two doubles and two RBIs along with six strikeouts and two walks. In 55 starts, LaRoche is batting .228 (45-for-197) with three homers, 12 RBIs, six doubles and 16 walks against 29 strikeouts.
"It's tough for anybody when you're used to playing a lot and you go to the bench -- and you don't get to play," Russell said. "We've tried all year as much as we can to keep those guys in the game as much as we can and get them some starts here and there.
"It will help them when they pinch-hit. That's a tough enough job without having any time. Giving them four at-bats every once in a while will help."
Karstens not likely to miss another start
MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates got some good news on Friday. It appears right-handed starter Jeff Karstens' right arm fatigue is not likely to cost him another start.
After missing his last start on Wednesday, Karstens now looks to be on pace to make his scheduled start on Tuesday in Chicago. Karstens threw at Miller Park on Friday before the Pirates' series opener with the Brewers.
"He had a light side today," said Pirates manager John Russell. "It went good."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.