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Pirates shutout Cardinals again to win season series

Pedro Alvarez hammered a three-run homer and Wandy Rodriguez pitched six shutout innings as the Pirates blanked the Cardinals for the second straight night, winning 5-0 at PNC Park on Wednesday.

Pirates fans may remember Joe Kelly shutting the Pirates down in the 19-inning game earlier in the month. Wednesday night, however, the Pirates struck early and showed patience to defeat the Cardinals by a 5-0 score.

The first run was scored after a single Travis Snider turned into a double. Two batters later, it was Garrett Jones who hit a double over the head of right fielder Carlos Beltran to allow the Pirates score first.

After a 20-pitch first inning, Wandy Rodriguez settled in and got out of a couple of jams, pitching effectively over six innings and allowing just three hits. He threw 96 pitches, 60 of which were strikes.

“I was working hard today,” Rodriguez said. “I was using a lot of my two-seamers and also in 3-2 counts. That’s what I did today. I relied a lot on my two-seamer.”

He got some help in the third inning, when Kelly walked Snider and Jones on four pitches each. With Snider on third base and Jones at first, Alvarez patiently waited for his pitch and it came on a 3-1 count. He made Kelly pay by hitting his 26th homer of the season, giving the Pirates a 4-0 lead.

Alvarez has 7 homeruns and 23 RBI in 15 games against Cardinals’ pitching this season.

“Pedro’s performance against the Cardinals speaks for itself,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Every once in a while he shows up like the big kid on the playground. They tried to spin him 3-1 and he hits it in the bleachers.”

Kelly’s pitch count would be stretched even further in the fifth inning as Josh Harrison batted in Alvarez,. who doubled.

Following Rodriguez’s exit from the game, Tony Watson pitched the seventh inning and allowed a bloop single to start but finished strong by striking out his last two batters.

Jason Grilli pitched the eighth inning, and started with two strikeouts before getting Allen Craig to fly out to Snider on the warning track to end his outing.

Joel Hanrahan got the call to pitch the final inning. He set the first two Cardinals down, and after a base hit, got Rafael Furcal to fly out to Andrew McCutchen to end the game and nail down the victory.

Snider Settling In
While many big outfield names such as Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were dealt at the trade deadline, Travis Snider has performed better than both of them.

In his first at-bat of the game, he was able to stretch a single into a double and then had an important tag-up that would be a part of a busy third inning. Snider’s aggressiveness was a tone setter for the game.

“I’m trying to be in scoring position and we’ve got guys who swing the bat well right behind me,” Snider said. “As a two-hitter, my job is to get on base and move guys over and then score runs.”

Snider’s third inning at-bat was the start of what ended up being a three run inning because of the Alvarez homer. Starting with Snider, four of the next six Pirates batters worked a count to three balls.

“With a younger starter out there, you really just try to make him work,” Snider said. “Anytime early in the game, a guy’s not effectively throwing strikes consistently early in the count, it’s upon us to be patient.”

Nomar Weighs In on MVP
Nomar Garciaparra was glad to be back at “one of his favorite ballparks” to broadcast the game for ESPN.

Despite Andrew McCutchen’s recent slump, fans are still clamoring for him as the National League MVP.

“It’s too early,” Garciaparra said. “If the Pirates can finish off and get to the postseason and has maintained what he’s doing, then it’s probably Andrew McCutchen.”

The Pirates taking the series against the Cardinals was an important step for the Pirates who are in a fight for the second wild card spot.

“I definitely think they have the team to do it, they’ve been playing good baseball all year long,” Garciaparra said.

Of Note:

  • Manager Clint Hurdle on Pedro Alvarez’s first homerun last night, the longest by a Pirate: “I thought it was going to hit the bridge.”
  • According to Hurdle and assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano, Neil Walker is improving and closer to action. He was held out of the starting lineup for the second night in a row.
  • Hurdle saw no problems with Jeff Karstens and he is expected to make his next start.
  • Here are the starters for this weekend: Karstens, A.J. Burnett and James McDonald.

On Deck
The Pirates have a day off before traveling to Milwaukee to face the Brewers. Jeff Karstens (5-3 3.47 ERA) will face Mark Rogers (2-1 4.28 ERA). Game time is 8:10 PM.

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