Watch out National League.

Cutch looks like he’s back.

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In what has been a spectacular jolt through the month of May, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen lifted his game, his numbers and — in one fell swoop — his ballclub.

McCutchen entered May with a .197 batting average and .629 OPS with just two home runs, coming off an abysmal opening month of the season.

But since May 1, the numbers have been staggering for the former National League MVP. Heading into play Friday night in San Diego, McCutchen carried a .272 average, had boosted his OPS all the way to .837 and hit five home runs over the past 16 days to give him seven on the season.

More so, in his most recent eight games, McCutchen pounded out 15 hits and had driven in six runs.

Simply put, Cutch seems back to being Cutch.

And the Pirates seem back to being the Pirates, turning a 17-20 record mid-month into one that’s 25-22 entering play tonight against the Padres.

So what has been behind the thunderbolt through this month and apparent return to normal for McCutchen?

Could it be a simple slow start, a normal slump, he overcame?

Might it have been continued healing on that knee?

Perhaps it was — and this is a long shot — extracting some motivation from the knucklehead who felt it necessary to post McCutchen’s paystub online?

Who knows.

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The guess here is that McCutchen’s balky knee has steadily strengthened and, with it, the sturdiness of his swing and game has too.

There is positively no question, early in the season, McCutchen was hobbled and slowed by that mysterious left knee injury that hit its height in Spring Training. It was an injury closely-guarded to the point where, in truth, it never really did come out precisely how it occurred. There have been rumblings from some that the initial tweak came about during filming of an off-season, non-Pirates related commercial shoot.

All that seems to matter little, if any, now.

What matters much, much more than how McCutchen’s knee came to be injured is that he now appears well on the other side of that harm, showing a capability to fully come down with all his weight on that front leg during his swing and glide effortlessly along the basepaths and from gap-to-gap in the outfield.

That wasn’t the case in the early going.

It is now.

While the Pirates got things back together in May, there can be many things pointed to as contributing factors. For me, however, this club — as long as McCutchen is a part of it — will largely go as he goes.

Now that he’s going good, it’s no coincidence so are the Pirates.

And now that he’s going good, the rest of the National League better watch out.

There’s a very good chance the McCutchen we all saw in May — and not the one we saw in April — is the McCutchen we could see the rest of the 2015 season.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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