MILWAUKEE -- Named to participate in the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby just two days before the event, replacing injured Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen didn't have much time to answer the oft-repeated question: Will competing in the Derby negatively impact a second-half swing?
On Friday, McCutchen offered a small-sample answer with his bat.
The All-Star outfielder went 3-for-4 with a home run in the ninth inning against Brewers closer John Axford, going deep for the second straight game and notching his third three-hit game in four tries.
"If I think it's going to mess up my swing, I wouldn't have done it," McCutchen said. "If you ask guys, anyone who does the Home Run Derby, if they feel like it's going to mess up their swing, they wouldn't do it. Left-handers are more susceptible to maybe changing their swing a little bit because their swings are just loopier than a right-hander's swing. I don't have a loop in my swing, I'm more straight to the ball, so I can't really alter that. Just put a good swing on the ball and it'll go out."
The theory gains steam from anecdotal cases such as Bobby Abreu in 2005, who put on a show to win the Home Run Derby in San Francisco but clubbed just six second-half homers after 18 in the first half.
"I don't subscribe to the theory," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who has served as batting-practice pitcher for the event in the past. "Andrew went in with a great attitude. He took his high school coach [Jon Spradlin], who was probably as nervous as [McCutchen] was. It was him just trying to have some fun and experience something new.
"I didn't see any residual fallout from the guys I wound up throwing to -- [Jeff] Bagwell, [Jeromy] Burnitz, [Ken] Griffey or [Larry] Walker; they all had pretty solid second halves. Guys can not have good second halves for a number of reasons. We grab [the Home Run Derby] because it's a big event. I felt very confident [McCutchen] would come back with the same mindset he's had since Opening Day, and that's been stay on the fastball, focus right-center field and whatever happens, happens."
McCutchen hit four homers in the first round in Kansas City on Monday and did not advance to the second round.
Lincoln gets breather after two-inning outing
MILWAUKEE -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle declared right-hander Brad Lincoln unavailable out of the bullpen for Saturday night's game after he threw 48 pitches Friday in a two-inning stint against nine batters.
Lincoln was touched up a bit for a run on three hits, charged with his first career blown save after allowing the second of Ryan Braun's two home runs in the game. It was Lincoln's first earned run allowed in a relief role this season, and his 0.61 ERA as a reliever still leads the Major Leagues.
Despite the high pitch count, Lincoln did not issue a walk and has allowed just four walks in his past 26 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. Hurdle said he wasn't sure prior to warmups if Tony Watson, who threw 35 pitches and allowed four runs Friday, would be available Saturday.
Sutton a switch-hitting sparkplug atop lineup
MILWAUKEE -- Friday's 10-7 loss to Milwaukee was the first time the Pirates had lost with Drew Sutton batting leadoff. The Pirates entered Saturday at 6-1 in those contests. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he liked the value of having a switch-hitter at the top, especially when followed by another switch-hitter in Neil Walker.
"You just look at the Giants series [July 6-8], when you try to match up in leverage situations and they've got four switch-hitters in the lineup, it can provide some challenges," Hurdle said. "Anytime you have guys that can take it from both sides, it's almost like an extra player."
Sutton has hit safely in eight of nine games and 11 of 14, including two hits Friday night.
The only two teams with fewer losses in a final at-bat this season are Baltimore and Atlanta with two apiece after the Pirates lost for the third time in a final at-bat on Friday.
After homering in his second straight game Friday, Neil Walker is now just two home runs shy of tying Jose Castillo and Rennie Stennett for fourth on the club's all-time home run list at second base. Bill Mazeroski leads the way with 137. Walker has a ways to go with 31 career homers as a second baseman.
Walker extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an infield single in the sixth inning Saturday.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.