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Phillies offense too much for Pirates

For the second night in a row, the Phillies jumped on Pirates pitching early, and the Bucs defense again faltered badly, as the Phils cruised to a 7-4 win at Citizens Bank Park. Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run homer and Neil Walker had three hits in the loss.

James McDonald turned in a shaky performance and wasn’t helped by his defense, as the Pirates fell to the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-4, for their second loss in as many days in Philadelphia.

With the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals both winning earlier in the evening, the Pirates fell to 3.5 games out of first place in the hotly contested National League Central race.

McDonald (7-5, 4.17) came into the game with a career best 11 2/3 scoreless-innings streak, and that lasted one more inning before Ryan Howard connected for his 21st home run of the year to dead center.

McDonald ran into more trouble in the 3rd inning. After striking out Cliff Lee to start the inning, Jimmy Rollins hit another solo shot to double up the score, 2-0. Shane Victorino followed with a single to right, and after a walk to Chase Utley, Howard doubled to deep left, scoring Victorino to put the Phillies ahead 3-0.

The Bucs had some fight in them though.

With two outs in the top of the 4th, Brandon Wood singled to center before Pedro Alvarez hit his 3rd home run of the year to cut the lead to 3-2.

The Pirates defensive woes would swing the momentum back the Phillies way in the bottom of the inning, however.

McDonald allowed hits to Lee and Rollins to start the 4th when Chase Utley singled to right. Right fielder Steve Pearce bobbled the ball while attempting to field, allowing Lee to score from second base. Howard followed with his third hit—and RBI—of the night, plating Rollins to give the Phillies the 5-2 advantage.

McDonald finished his night allowing 5 runs on 10 hits in 5 innings. The right-hander walked 2 and struck out 5 in the 97-pitch loss.

Lee (10-7, 3.14) turned in a strong performance, throwing 121 pitches in the win. He allowed the Pirates to threaten in the 8th, when he gave up 2 runs. Pedro Ciriaco bunted for a base hit to start the inning, and came around to score on Neil Walker’s single to right, his third hit on the night.

Wood singled later in the inning to score Andrew McCutchen, chasing Lee. The left-hander pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits and 1 walk while striking out 11.

Antonio Bastardo came in to strikeout Alvarez with the tying run on base, ending the threat for the Bucs.

Hunter Pence, the newly acquired right fielder for the Phillies, went 1-5 with an RBI in his debut. Although it was a paltry showing at the plate, Pence provided the protection the Phillies have been looking for; Howard finished with 4 hits and a walk.

Ryan Madson struck out the side in the 9th to record his 18th save in 19 chances.

PIRATES EXPECTED TO ACQUIRE LEE
Media reports out of Baltimore indicate that the Pirates are close to acquiring Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee in exchange for an A-ball prospect. Lee, 36, is hitting .246 with 12 homeruns and 41 RBI this season. He’s been hot this month, however, with 6 homers in 92 July at bats and would be considered an upgrade over Lyle Overbay.

UP NEXT
The Pirates conclude this three game series tomorrow afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Jeff Karstens (8-5, 2.41) takes the hill for the Pirates against Phillies right-hander Vance Worley (7-1, 2.02). First pitch is scheduled for 1:35.

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