NEW YORK -- Andrew McCutchen would much rather battle Buster Posey within a pennant chase, maybe within a postseason series.
But with the Pirates' elimination number now at two, their All-Star center fielder said Tuesday that a National League batting title is an enticing incentive as the final week approaches.
"It would mean a lot -- definitely something I could hang my hat high on," McCutchen said. "It would be the first one since  with Freddy Sanchez. You know, a lot of guys have come through [Pittsburgh] with batting titles, and it'll definitely be a great individual accolade."
On Tuesday, McCutchen spent an hour and a half at the MLB Fan Cave in Greenwich Village, going out on the streets to tape a video skit in which he shows not only five tools but a full complement of 17. He went from there with his agent to the offices of Rolling Stone magazine, so who knows, maybe McCutchen will be on the cover of that publication over the coming weeks.
Of course, there is still very much a chance that McCutchen would be known as the NL Most Valuable Player over this next offseason, as his candidacy certainly stands on its own as far as individual numbers. He was leading the Majors with a .336 average, and the Giants' Posey was looming behind at .332.
McCutchen leads the NL in hits and runs, and still has a sweet .336/.407/.566 slash line. The Giants have already clinched the NL West and Posey is among the MVP Award front-runners, with Milwaukee's Ryan Braun also in the conversation.
Say this for McCutchen: It's not like he is obsessing over the batting title or the MVP Award. He still wants that first .500 season for the Pirates in 20 years, and he arrived at the Fan Cave with a message to Pirates fans who came out strong in 2012 to back what seemed like a contender.
"The big key for us is finish strong and stay positive," McCutchen said. "There are two things you can control in this game; that's your attitude and your effort, and we've got to bring those to the ballpark every single day.
"I enjoy the individual accolades, but right now I'm trying to be a team player and do everything I can to help my team win. After the season is over, I'll be able to look back and think about what I did from an individual standpoint. But for right now, I'm not focusing on it."
McCutchen attributed at least some of his 2012 success to what happened in Spring Training: a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension, with a club option for another $14.75 million in a seventh season. He said that security allowed him to flourish this summer.
"I would lie to you if I told you that signing that contract didn't help me relax as well," McCutchen said. "It definitely helped me relax and go out there and just have fun and play the game. I was able to recognize and see things and notice things that I probably wouldn't have seen last year, just because I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy the game."
The Pirates entered Tuesday at 75-78, so that elusive .500 mark is at least still within reach. They have two more games remaining at the Mets, and then a regular-season-ending homestand that includes three games with Cincinnati and three with Atlanta. The Reds already have clinched the NL Central, and the Braves also are likely to show up with a postseason berth in hand, which means both opponents might rest regulars.
"Support has been good," McCutchen said. "Fans have stuck with us through all these years. They come to the ballpark and they say they want a .500 ballclub, and the next thing you know, we're 10 games over .500 going into the All-Star break. And then the next thing you know, we're in the lead of the NL Central.
"So the fans were starting to see more than a .500 ballclub -- we could be a postseason ballclub. We haven't gotten that yet, but you shade away from wanting a .500 ballclub, and then the next thing you know, you say, 'We should be in the playoffs.' It could still happen. There are still some games left, [and] it's a crazy game. But they've supported us from the beginning until now."
Can the Pirates continue to push the boundaries in the regular season? They were strong in the first half of 2011 and contended a bit longer in '12.
"I think we can do it," McCutchen said. "We've been pretty good about bats and the pitching, but it's always good to add on to any ballclub. If you add on, all you do is make the club stronger. The pitching has been very consistent for us this year, the bats have been a little slow, but the pitching had our back at the beginning of the year.
"The offense, it could be better. I feel like that's something where we go into the offseason just hoping we try to add on. We're just staying positive right now. We're not where we want to be, but there's nothing we can do about the past, all we can do is focus on what we have in front of us. We're just going to go out and stay positive and play hard."
McCutchen reiterated how he impressed he was with Melky Cabrera's request to be excluded for a possible NL batting title following a suspension for violating MLB's substance abuse program.
"For him to do what he did ... he felt bad for what he did. [It] took a man to be able to go out and say, 'This isn't me, I don't deserve it,' and knocked himself out of that race," McCutchen said. "He gained a lot of respect for being able to do that. To be able to win a batting title in Pittsburgh ... it would definitely be a nice individual effort."