With 18 games left on the Pirates' schedule, center fielder Andrew McCutchen is batting .341 with 28 home runs. Put another way, with his team battling for its first winning season and first postseason appearance since 1992, McCutchen is threatening to cross the finish line with a combination of numbers never before turned in by a Pirates player. Using his two Triple Crown numbers as a baseline, no player in the franchise's history has finished a season hitting at least .340 with at least 28 homers.
Pittsburgh's highest home run total for a .340 hitter came from Roberto Clemente, who hit 23 homers with a .351 batting average in 1961 and 23 home runs with a .357 average in '67. The highest batting average for a Pirates player with at least 28 home runs came from Dave Parker, who hit .334 with 30 homers in 1978.
In the Pirates' 7-6 win over the Cubs, McCutchen went 2-for-3, hit his 28th home run and drew two walks. With the two hits and two walks, McCutchen has a Major League-leading 15 games in which he's reached base safely at least four times. Those 15 are the most for Pittsburgh since Jason Kendall had 16 such games in 2004. McCutchen would need three more of these performances to match the most for a Pirates player in the live-ball era. In 1928, Paul Waner had 18 games of reaching safely four times, and in 1950, Ralph Kiner matched that total.
The Giants defeated the D-backs, 3-2, with Buster Posey going 3-for-4 with a double and a two-run home run. Posey's line of .333/.407/.546/.953 works out currently to a 170 OPS+. For all qualifying catchers since 1876, only four have finished a season with a 170 or higher OPS+. In 1895, Jack Clements had a 170 OPS+ for the Phillies. In 1997, the Dodgers' Mike Piazza posted a 185, and two years earlier, had a 172. In 2009, Minnesota's Joe Mauer finished with a 171 mark.
Rickie Weeks doubled, homered and drove in three runs to help lead the Brewers to a 9-6 win over the Mets. Weeks owns an .858 OPS in his past 30 games (he is at .745 for the season), and in those 30 contests, the Brewers are 21-9.
The Dodgers got a ninth-inning, game-tying RBI double from Luis Cruz and then a game-winning RBI single from Juan Rivera, and defeated the Cardinals, 4-3. With the victory, Los Angeles moved into a tie with St. Louis for the second National League Wild Card spot. The Pirates are two games back, while the Brewers are 2 1/2 games out. Philadelphia stands three games out, and the D-backs are 4 1/2 behind.
The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 3-2, with Cody Ross hitting his 21st home run of the season. Ross has 53 extra-base hits in 463 plate appearances, for an extra-base-hit percentage of 11.45, fifth highest in the American League. Josh Hamilton (11.93), Albert Pujols (11.90), Miguel Cabrera (11.58), and Robinson Cano (11.53) are ahead of him.
White Sox, Tigers
The White Sox and Tigers each won 5-3, keeping things static in the AL Central, with Chicago holding onto a one-game lead over Detroit. Francisco Liriano (White Sox) and Anibal Sanchez (Tigers) picked up the respective wins, with each starting pitcher flirting with a no-hitter. Both Liriano and Sanchez allowed their first hit with two outs in the seventh.
In the Yankees' win over the Rays, Cano collected his 40th double of the season. In six of his first eight years, Cano has hit at least 40 doubles, becoming the third player in history to do so. Ducky Medwick had seven seasons with 40-plus, and Wade Boggs had six. Cano's total of 326 doubles is the fifth highest for any player in history through his first eight seasons. He trails Medwick (353), Pujols (342), Waner (337) and Todd Helton (328).
The Athletics defeated the Orioles, 5-2, to improve to 47-19 in their past 66 games. The win, coupled with the Rangers' defeat, moved Oakland to within two games of Texas for first place in the AL West. Oakland owns the second-best overall record in the AL. Baltimore's loss, combined with the Yankees' victory, moved the O's to one game behind New York for first place in the AL East. Baltimore leads in the race for the second Wild Card spot, 2 1/2 games ahead of the Angels, three up on the Rays and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers.
Jarrod Parker allowed two runs in seven innings and improved to 11-8 with a 3.51 ERA. Parker's outing gave the Athletics 46 games this season in which their starter finished with at least seven innings and no more than two runs allowed. Those 46 are the fourth most in the Majors, and the most in the AL.
The Braves' bullpen contributed four innings of scoreless ball and Atlanta defeated Washington, 5-4. With the victory, the Braves moved to within 6 1/2 games of the Nationals for first place in the NL East. The Braves own a seven-game lead over the field for the first NL Wild Card spot.
In the win, Jason Heyward hit his 27th home run of the season. Heyward's total ties him with Hank Aaron (27 in 1955) for the eighth most in Braves history for a player in his age-22 or younger season.
Since the beginning of June, Heyward owns a line of .293/.351/.536 in 93 games, and he has 21 home runs (as part of 43 extra-base hits) with 50 RBIs. Those 21 home runs since June 1 tie Heyward for the 16th most in the Majors.
First baseman Freddie Freeman hit his 20th home run of the year. With Freeman also in his age-22 season, the 2012 Braves are the seventh team in baseball history to have a pair of players in their age-22 or younger season with 20 homers. Interestingly, three of the seven are Braves teams.
The other six:
1940 Red Sox: Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams
1966 Red Sox: Tony Conigliaro, George Scott
1970 Reds: Johnny Bench, Bernie Carbo
1978 Braves: Bob Horner, Dale Murphy
1982 Twins: Tom Brunansky, Kent Hrbek
2006 Braves: Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann
LaRoche hit his 30th home run of the season (and 22nd since the start of June). Those 30 are the second most in Expos/Nationals history for a first baseman, with Adam Dunn holding the top mark (38 in 2010.) LaRoche had been tied with Andres Galarraga, who hit 29 in 1988.
Down, 2-0, with one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals got -- in a span of four pitches -- a game-tying two-run homer from Billy Butler and a game-winning solo home run from Salvador Perez to defeat the Angels, 3-2. The last time the Royals got a game-tying and a game-ending home run in their final at-bat was on April 5, 2004. In that win -- over the White Sox -- Mendy Lopez hit a pinch-hit game-tying three-run homer off Damaso Marte, who then allowed a walk-off two-run home run to Carlos Beltran.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.