After Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs on Friday, the third baseman ripped a bases clearing double to right field off St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright to tie the game up at 5.
Alvarez has been red hot over his last two weeks, going 17-for-47 (.362) with four doubles, six home runs and 15 RBI in his last 13 games. And on day games, Alvarez is even hotter. Alvarez has hit 11 of his 14 home runs in day games and boasts a .297/.357/.851 line.
“There was a lot on this man’s plate last year — expectations, injuries,” Manager Clint Hurdle said of what’s changed with Alvarez since last season. “I think it got to the point where it was a lot. The focus, the self confidence kind of dropped off. Even through spring training it was a challenge. And once the season started, it looked similar. It was right around the third week in April when things started to spark up. For about a two, three week window, he swung the bat as well as I’ve ever seen him…Then the bottom fell out for about a month. He’s really been on one of those best stretches again. Right now, he’s just committing to one plan. There was a lot of plans and a lot of lane changing going on.”
“I think one day he’ll [bat] four. And he’ll stay at four, and he’ll be there for a long time.”
On Saturday afternoon, Alvarez for the second straight game stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. This time, however, Alvarez wasn’t satisfied with just three RBI. The third baseman fouled off two pitches to bring the count full before crushing a 94 MPH fastball into the right field seats for a grand slam. It marked the second of his career and it gave the Pirates a quick 4-0 lead before the Cardinals even had a chance to bat.
“Just working hard and trusting that the work is going to turn things around,” Alvarez said. “Fastball. Belt-high. I was just getting ready to hit anything that came my way.”
The Pirates offense in June has been impressive. They have hit a National League leading 39 home runs this month. It tied the club record for most home runs in the month of June, also 39 in 1975.
After pounding out season-high hits and runs in the 14-5 win over St. Louis on Saturday, the clubs offense didn’t let up today. The Pirates plated seven runs off St. Louis en route to their fourth straight win. Pittsburgh has won 17 games in a month for the first time since August 2007.
McCutchen Exits Game With Injury
Andrew McCutchen injured his left wrist after making a diving catch in the third inning. The catch ended the Cardinals rally, but McCutchen was late to leave the field and had to be checked out by the Pirates training staff. He remained in the game, but was later replaced by Drew Sutton.
“Things are going to happen,” Hurdle said. “They’re going to make plays or they’re going to get hurt. I’ve seen it all happen. You’re always hoping they don’t get hurt and they do get up.”
After the game, McCutchen was diagnosed with a left wrist sprain. Hurdle said that he hopes to give the center fielder rest on Sunday. McCutchen went 2-for-4 with a run and bumped his impressive average to .346 on the season.
“I anticipate us not running him out there tomorrow just to give him some more time,” Hurdle said.
Karstens Bounces Back From Rough First Start off the DL
The last trip to the mound for Jeff Karstens in Philadelphia on Monday was a struggle. It was the first Major League start for the right-hander since April 17 after spending nearly two months on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury, as well as a hip flexor strain. Karstens left the outing healthy, but allowed seven runs on 11 hits over five innings.
On Saturday afternoon in St. Louis, Karstens was able to bounce back and toss seven solid innings for Pittsburgh.
“I can’t say enough about [Michael] McKenry behind the plate today,” Karstens said. “For me, I felt like I was a little bit behind the hitters today because I haven’t been able to watch a lot of the stuff. I kind of gave him an idea of what I wanted to do. We just meshed it together and just kind of went from there.”
With a four run lead of cushion, Karstens didn’t allow his first hit until the third inning, when the Cardinals were able to get two runs off him after tossing two scoreless. Tony Cruz doubled to left field to lead off the frame. With one out, Karstens issued his second free pass. The first run scored when Jon Jay hit a grounder to short. Matt Holliday followed with an RBI knock to center field.
Karstens finished the two-run third up with four scoreless frames and scattered two hits. The right-hander bounced back with seven innings, four hits, two runs, two walks and a season-high seven strikeouts. Karstens threw 95 pitches, 62 for strikes.
“I don’t know if I got stronger. I think I adapted to the heat a little better,” Karstens said. “I changed my warm-up routine a little bit. Instead of doing all my warming and stretching on the field, I did it inside today…I think I was able to conserve some stuff early and as the game went on I think I was able to adapt.”
Lincoln Unavailable for Two Days
Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said prior to the game that Brad Lincoln will not be available from bullpen on Saturday and Sunday due to the three frames he pitched on Friday.
Last night, Hurdle said they want to keep Lincoln stretched out when they can, and will not pitch him on back-to-back days in relief. The transition from starter, to reliever, to starter and to reliever again can be tough, and Hurdle wants to keep him fresh.
“We’re going to try and make sure we use him efficiently as far as when he pitches one night, we’re not going back-to-back with him for a while,” Hurdle said. “And once he gets out there and we have opportunities to stretch him out, we’re going to let him pitch. Why try and change too much with him? If he’s got the opportunity to be stretched out, we’re going to stretch him out.”