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Andrew McCutchen's inside-the-park HR helps Bucs protect NL WC lead

PHILADELPHIA -- There has been no slowing down Andrew McCutchen or the Pittsburgh Pirates lately.

The reigning National League MVP hit the first inside-the-park homer of his career, and the Pirates protected their lead in the wild-card race, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 on Wednesday night.

Russell Martin also homered in the fifth inning, and the Pirates' bullpen helped secure the team's sixth victory in seven games. McCutchen tied the score when he scored standing up after his drive off the wall in straightaway center field.

"With (McCutchen's) speed," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, "it was an easy finish for him."

The star slugger said he knew he had an inside-the-park homer when the ball first struck the wall.

"It's brick, so anything coming that hard is going to come off it and go that way," he said. "I knew when it hit the wall that I had a good chance."

The last-place Phillies have had a difficult time trying to contain McCutchen, who is 18-for-36 in his past 10 games against Pittsburgh's in-state rivals.

Two batters after McCutchen's electrifying homer, Martin gave the Pirates the lead for good with a more-traditional long ball. He sent his ninth homer of the season a few rows deep into the center-field seats, putting Pittsburgh ahead 4-3.

Pittsburgh starter Vance Worley (7-4), who pitched two seasons for the Phillies, won in his return to Philadelphia after being traded in 2012.

The Pirates' bullpen, which entered with the NL's fifth-best ERA, kept Philadelphia hitless for four innings. Bobby LaFromboise, John Holdzkom and Tony Watson pitched clean innings, and Mark Melancon did the same in the ninth to convert his 28th save in 32 opportunities.

Hurdle said Worley had "inconsistent command," forcing him to rely on his bullpen to pick him up.

Worley agreed with his manager's assessment.

"Stuff was sloppy and did the opposite of what I wanted the ball to do," he said. "It seemed like my four-seam (fastball) was sinking, and my sinker was cutting, and my curveballs were nowhere in the zone. And if I threw my cutter right, it was 5 feet short. I just had to keep battling and trust what I had and trust my defense behind me."

Cody Asche doubled and scored two runs for the Phillies, who have lost three of four.

Phillies starter Jerome Williams (3-1) helped Philadelphia more from the batter's box than from the pitcher's mound. The right-hander's two-run single in the fourth doubled his career RBI total to four and gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Williams' hit was the last of the night for Philadelphia.

In the fifth, McCutchen and Martin, who finished with three RBIs, homered off Williams to erase Pittsburgh's deficit.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Pirates: Third basemanĀ Pedro Alvarez has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in the fourth metatarsal of his left foot, for which the typical recovery time is four to six weeks. Alvarez has appeared in only one game since Aug. 26, when he first sustained the injury.

Phillies: LF Domonic Brown exited in the sixth with a bruised left shoulder. ... LHP Cliff Lee had his left elbow examined by three physicians, including the team's, in recent weeks. He will remain on his present rehab plan and will not throw until November, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. ... SS Jimmy Rollins, who sustained a left hamstring strain Monday, has no timeline for a return, Amaro said.

UP NEXT

Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (4-10, 3.74 ERA) takes the mound for the rubber match Thursday. He earned a win Saturday, his first in his past seven starts.

Phillies: RHP A.J. Burnett (8-15, 4.29) gets the ball Thursday night. He has gone at least six innings in each of his past six starts, a streak that dates to Aug. 8.

ON A ROLL

Pirates LF Starling Marte used a sixth-inning single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, during which he is 16-for-40. He also doubled in the eighth and finished 2-for-4.