PHOENIX -- After scorching a handful of baseballs over the first two weeks of the season, only to see many of them fall into leather, Neil Walker must have finally paid his debt to the baseball gods.
Walker dropped a bloop single in shallow right field with two outs in the eighth inning, scoring Clint Barmes from second to propel the Pirates to a 2-1 victory against the Diamondbacks today at Chase Field.
With the win, the Pirates (5-7) earned their second series win in four tries this season and wrap up a nine-game National League West road trip having gone 3-6.
Brad Lincoln, recalled from Class AAA this morning in place of injured started Jeff Karstens, earned the win in relief, allowing one hit over three scoreless innings after starter James McDonald was pulled after the fourth inning.
Juan Cruz earned his second save in as many games, pitching in place of injured closer Joel Hanrahan.
Pedro Alvarez hit his second home run of the season, scorching a 2-0 changeup into the Pirates bullpen in right field to tie the score, 1-1. Alvarez has hit two of the Pirates' six home runs this season, tied with Garrett Jones for the team lead. But the two homers are Alvarez's only hits of the season.
After using five of their seven bullpen arms the night prior -- to compensate for an early injury to starter Jeff Karstens -- the Pirates needed McDonald to eat some innings this afternoon.
Those hopes were dashed in the first inning, when McDonald threw 33 pitches -- almost assuring his day would not last long at all.
He gave up a leadoff triple to Willie Bloomquist, who scored on a single by Jason Kubel to give the Diamondbacks (7-5) a 1-0 lead. McDonald also issued a first-inning walk.
The Pirates have surrendered at least one first-inning run in seven of their 12 games this season, including all three games against the Diamondbacks.
But it wasn't just McDonald who struggled with his command in the first. Diamondbacks starter Daniel Hudson threw 24 pitches to four batters, getting Walker to hit into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners.
In total, the first inning featured a combined 57 pitches and lasted 28 minutes -- producing just one run between the two teams.
McDonald lasted just four innings, allowing the one earned run on three hits.
The Pirates had a good scoring chance in the sixth inning when leadoff batter Alex Presley singled to right field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Barmes. But Andrew McCutchen struck out on a 2-2 fastball and Walker flied out to left field, to keep the score 1-0.
Lincoln pitched his way out of a jam in the sixth to keep the Pirates within striking distance. After allowing a leadoff triple to Aaron Hill, Lincoln got Kubel to strikeout. He then walked Montero and forced Ryan Roberts into an inning-ending double play.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino.