Pedro Alvarez touches home plate after hitting his second three-run home run against the Indians in the sixth inning Sunday at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEVELAND -- Much like a golfer shaping his ball around a dogleg, Pedro Alvarez found a flight pattern he liked in the Pirates' series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Alvarez hit two more home runs Sunday afternoon, bringing his total for the series to four. Three of them were line drives into the seats in right field.
Three errors by Asdrubal Cabrera helped the Pirates offense, but Alvarez's six RBIs Sunday gave the Pirates a 9-5 win.
"I think we did a good job of scoring some runs, putting some pressure on them and taking care of some of their mistakes," Alvarez said.
Alvarez had not homered in 19 days before he hit two Saturday. The two Sunday, which came in consecutive at-bats, gave him 12 on the season, tripling his total from 2011.
In the fourth inning, he hit a 1-0 pitch from Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez into the seats, scoring Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee. In the fifth, he curled a low line drive around the foul pole.
To shake things up, he doubled off the left-field wall in the seventh. He said increased focus on pitch selection, no matter when the pitch to hit appeared during an at-bat, has helped.
"If I get a good pitch early in the at-bat, most likely I'll swing early," he said. "If not, I try to work a walk, try to work some kind of good at-bat."
Alex Presley also homered for the second game in a row, giving him five on the season.
The offense overshadowed a third rocky start in a row from Brad Lincoln, who allowed four runs on eight hits in 31/3 innings.
"I filled up the strike zone early and then just let it slip away from me there in that last inning," Lincoln said. "I got to focus more, especially with two outs. That's been a big problem for me. It seems that they do a lot of their scoring and hitting with two outs."
General manager Neal Huntington said before the game that the Pirates planned to keep Lincoln in the rotation until Jeff Karstens returns, which means Lincoln will make at least one and possibly two more starts. He has not finished five innings in any of his past three starts and allowed at least four runs in each of them. Manager Clint Hurdle said he instructed Lincoln to pitch with everything he had Sunday, rather than pace himself in an attempt to pitch deeper in the game.
"As far as him going out and letting it eat, he did that," Hurdle said. "They still put the barrel on the ball a little more than you would expect with the stuff he had."
Jason Kipnis hit a 2-2 fastball for his 11th home run of the season in the first, giving Cleveland an early lead.
In the second, Johnny Damon singled and stole second before Casey Kotchman grounded to the right side. Neil Walker, playing in shallow right field as part of a defensive shift, reached the ball, but couldn't handle it, and Damon scored to make it 2-0.
In the fourth, a two-out error extended the inning and allowed the Pirates to take the lead. Jones reached on a force-out. With a runner on first, McGehee grounded to short, but Cabrera threw wide of first, putting runners on second and third before Alvarez's first home run.
The Indians recaptured the lead in the fourth. Shin-Soo Choo hit Lincoln's first offering over Presley's head to the wall in left field, scoring two runs and giving the Indians a 4-3 lead.
"We gave them a gift run [in the fourth] with the ball to left field," Hurdle said. "That ball needs to be caught."
Presley homered with one out in the fifth. Later in the inning, with first base open, Gomez walked Jones to load the bases.
McGehee grounded to short, but Cabrera bobbled the ball, allowing Walker to score. McCutchen scored on a subsequent Cabrera throwing error, leaving two men on base.
"You're not going to see that team make three errors that often in game," Hurdle said. "We made them hurt."
Indians manager Manny Acta brought in Esmil Rogers to face Alvarez, who crushed his second home run of the game.
"It sure shrinks the ballpark when he puts the barrel on the ball," Hurdle said.