McCutchen, Pirates beat slumping Phillies

PITTSBURGH -- Chase Utley was in New York getting his injured thumb surgically repaired. Charlie Manuel was missing from the dugout, banished for one game for making contact with an umpire. No wonder the Philadelphia Phillies didn't look like themselves.

Right now they aren't the team that won the National League the last two seasons, and they must be wondering when they will be again.

Daniel McCutchen became the second Pittsburgh rookie in as many days to win for the first time this season, pitching into the sixth inning as the Pirates beat the injury-thinned Phillies 3-2 on Thursday night.

Rookies Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez drove in a run each as the Pirates beat a team with a winning record for only the second time in 33 games since May 25. Their last victory over an above-.500 team was a 6-3 win over San Francisco Giants on June 5.

On Wednesday, Pirates rookie Brad Lincoln won his first in the majors by pitching seven innings during a 2-0 victory in Chicago.

The Phillies lost their third in four games a few hours after learning Utley, their star second baseman, probably won't return until September because of a damaged ligament in his right thumb. They fell four games behind the idle Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

"It's been very disappointing. We're just not clicking, that's the key," said bench coach Pete Mackanin, who filled in as manager. "We've just got to click for a week and I think we'll get on a roll, but we just haven't been clicking."

Philadelphia has seven players on the disabled list -- and that doesn't include backup catcher Brian Schneider, who was lifted in the fourth inning with a hyperextended left thumb. He may not know until Friday if he will be sidelined.

"We've done it before when guys have gotten hurt. You can't just sit back when guys get hurt, you want to get rolling," Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. "That's why you call up other guys to fill in and go out there and do the job. I don't see why we can't."

Phillies starter Cole Hamels (6-7) lost his fifth in six decisions despite limiting Pittsburgh to five hits -- all but one a single -- over seven innings. He struck out eight and walked two.

Wilson Valdez, one of the many backups the Phillies need to produce while they fight through injuries that have stripped them of 30 percent of their offense, hit his second homer in three days to tie it at 1 in the third. But Philadelphia's only other run off the previously ineffective McCutchen resulted from second baseman Andy LaRoche's throwing error that allowed a run to score in the fifth.

McCutchen (1-3) was 1-5 in 11 career games before limiting Philadelphia to six hits and one earned run, striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings.

"I still felt strong, but we have some guys in the bullpen who are on a roll and I can understand [why he was lifted]," said McCutchen, whose best pitch was his changeup.

Four relievers combined to work 3 2/3 scoreless innings, with Evan Meek pitching a scoreless seventh and eighth to lower his ERA to 0.98 in 37 games. Meek struck out Ryan Howard and got Raul Ibanez on a fly ball after Jimmy Rollins doubled with one out in the eighth.

Octavio Dotel finished up in the ninth for his 17th save in 20 opportunities, striking out Victorino looking to end the game with a runner on third.

"I thought it was a ball," Victorino said. "I'm not trying to start any controversy,but I thought it was a ball."

Pirates manager John Russell probably hopes Manuel -- the NL manager in the All-Star Game -- was watching Meek, a former Rule 5 draft pick who has been a good pitcher on a bad team.

"Absolutely, he should be [in the All-Star Game]," Russell said. "He should be a shoo-in."

Bobby Crosby had a run-scoring single in the second, Tabata added another in the fourth and Alvarez -- shifted from sixth to second in the batting order -- doubled to left-center in the third on a drive that missed by a few feet of being his first career homer. Alvarez, one of three Pirates rookies in the lineup, had struck out in 16 of his previous 31 at-bats.

Game notes
Harold Garcia of the Phillies' Class A Clearwater affiliate extended his hitting streak to 34 games Thursday. He's two shy of matching the Florida State League record set by Joe Altobelli in 1951. ... Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (concussion), out since June 25, may return Saturday. ... Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth was hitless in three at-bats and doesn't have an RBI in seven games. Howard doesn't have one in five games.