The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't had much luck finding major-league talent with their first-round draft picks in recent years.
They may have found a keeper in Andrew McCutchen.McCutchen delivered the Pirates' first walk-off win of the season in their latest game, and he'll be looking to extend his rookie season-high 13-game hitting streak Friday night when Pittsburgh opens a three-game set with the visiting Kansas City Royals.Of the team's first-round picks since 1993, only pitchers Kris Benson and Paul Maholm have been viable major leaguers. Coincidentally, the Pirates (33-39) haven't had a winning season in that stretch.Yet with the way McCutchen, Pittsburgh's 2005 first rounder, has looked since being called up earlier this month, he could give the team a legitimate star at the top of the order.McCutchen extended his hitting streak with a double in the sixth inning Thursday against Cleveland, drew a walk to tie the score in the seventh and singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Pirates a 3-2 victory."It was kind of like almost predestined, the way you kind of looked at it," said McCutchen, who has 18 RBIs in 20 games in the majors from the leadoff spot. "Every time I came up to the bat, it was a key situation. I was able to come through."Pittsburgh will get its first look at Gil Meche (4-6, 4.11 ERA) in the series opener, and Meche will be looking to bounce back from the worst start of his career.Meche struck out 11 over seven shutout innings at Cleveland on June 10 and pitched a complete game in a 5-0 victory over Arizona six days later. His most recent outing, however, was a disaster. The right-hander gave up a career-high nine runs over 3 1/3 innings Sunday in a 12-5 loss to St. Louis."I'm looking forward to getting back on the hill," Meche told the Royals' official Web site. "Anytime you do that, you want to pitch as soon as possible just to get it out of your head and make sure it's not going to continue."Kansas City (31-40) had lost five in a row heading into Houston for three games this week, and they came away with one-run victories on Tuesday and Wednesday. Lance Berkman hit two two-run homers in Thursday's finale, however, and the Royals were on the other end of a one-run score, losing 5-4.It was the fourth interleague road series Kansas City has won in its past five.Pittsburgh sent down struggling starter Ian Snell on Thursday after his poor start two days earlier, and his replacement will make his Pirates debut in the opener. Virgil Vazquez (0-0, 0.00) has five games -- three starts -- of major-league experience with Detroit from 2007, and Pittsburgh claimed him off waivers from San Diego in January.Vazquez was 5-2 with a 4.18 ERA in 14 starts with Triple-A Indianapolis, and he'll start Friday in place of Charlie Morton, who will be pushed to Sunday in Snell's spot.The Royals have won four in a row against Pittsburgh, including a three-game sweep in Kansas City in 2006. The teams haven't played at PNC Park since 2001.