DENVER -- Clint Hurdle has been eyewitness to a lot of memorable hot streaks with the bat, as you would expect of a former teammate of George Brett, a former manager in Coors Field and a former batting coach in Texas. Hurdle has seen it all, but he has never seen this.
The Pirates' skipper said Andrew McCutchen's ongoing stretch "might be the best I've ever seen."
The National League Player of the Month for June and its two-time Player of the Week shows no signs of slowing down. Hurdle called McCutchen's numbers against left-handed pitching -- .470 average and .505 on-base percentage -- "crazy." If that's nuts, what about his last month against everything: .481 average and .521 on-base in 26 games since June 16?
"And it's not even only about the numbers. I'm watching this young man perform and taking into consideration the cast of characters, the lineup involved, and I'm thinking, 'Wow, this is special.' And he just keeps rolling," said Hurdle, who is not easy to impress.
In 1980, Hurdle watched Brett hit .484 across a 45-game midseason stretch.
In 1997, he watched the Rockies' Larry Walker hit .414 and slug .775 through June.
In June 2010, he watched Josh Hamilton collect 49 hits in 26 games and hit .454.
"And this still very well could be the best," Hurdle reiterated. "This is a very special time and place in the game for him. Andrew is enjoying this ride, however long it's going to be."
Barmes delivering the goods defensively
DENVER -- In a world of middle-infield sizzle, the Bucs' Clint Barmes and Neil Walker keep bringing the steak. No acrobatic dives and no-look between-the-legs flips. Just outs, many of them two at a time.
Describing their style of play earlier this season, Barmes called it "vanilla." Can we then call Pittsburgh's double-play combination 'Vanilla Twice?'
Even in the aftermath of a 6-2 win on Tuesday that featured two hits apiece by Andrew McCutchen and Walker, and a reassuring win by Erik Bedard, manager Clint Hurdle found time to salute Barmes. The shortstop flawlessly handle nine chances, including triggering a fifth-inning double play with a backhand stop deep in the hole.
"What a fantastic game by Barmes at short. He was all over the place," Hurdle said, mindful that highlight double play came right after the Pirates had grabbed a lead and kept the Rockies from mounting a retort.
Leather continues to be Barmes' meal ticket, and the .204 hitter has been eating well. He has made only one error in his last 26 games and his .980 fielding percentage over the last three months ranks second in the National League to -- speaking of the sizzle -- Jose Reyes' .983.
"It was fun getting all that action out there," said Barmes, enjoying the return to the place where five years ago Troy Tulowitzki supplanted him as Colorado's regular shortstop.
Bucs add additional high pick through Lottery
DENVER -- The Pirates have suddenly moved into position to make a huge impact in next June's First-Year Player Draft.
Already holding a pair of first-round picks, the Bucs drew another early selection in Wednesday's inaugural MLB Competitive Balance Lottery. As a negotiated element of the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Lottery essentially gives the 10 lowest-revenue and 10 smallest-market clubs a chance at an additional sandwich pick either following the first or second round.
In Wednesday's lottery, the Pirates were awarded the second post-first round pick (Kansas City drew the first sandwich choice).
The Bucs already held a pair of first-round picks: Their regular yet-to-be-determined slot, pending their 2012 final standing, and the No. 9 pick as compensation for not being able to sign their No. 1 choice last month, Stanford right-hander Mark Appel.
The last word
"Anything I can do to help is a plus. It's what I try to do every at-bat, and on every pitch on defense."
-- Pedro Alvarez, who clocked his 19th homer of the season in the second inning of Wednesday's game against Colorado.
• Prior to Tuesday night, only three of Joel Hanrahan's 84 career saves had been one-out jobs: May 28 of this season against the Reds, May 9, 2009 (against Arizona, with the Nationals) and on Sept. 15, 2011 (against the Dodgers).
• Rookie righty Jared Hughes, who relieved Erik Bedard in the seventh inning Tuesday night to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam, has stranded 16 of the 17 runners he has inherited.
• Teams are generally expected to play at least .500 ball on the road to be considered serious contenders. The Pirates took an away record of 21-26 into Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Rockies -- but were 21-21 since dropping their first five road games of the season, in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
• Garrett Jones, who went 3-for-5 Wednesday and lacked only the triple for a cycle, is a career .405 hitter (17-for-42) in 11 games at Coors Field, with 13 RBIs. His Coors hits include seven doubles and four home runs.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.