Hits keep coming as Pirates beat Diamondbacks, 6-5

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PHOENIX -- Monday night, the Pirates' five runs represented an offensive bonanza for a team that began the season in a dry spell at the plate.

Tuesday, the Pirates equaled that total in one inning.

The hits came Tuesday night, and with them the runs. Enough, at least, to overcome an awful first inning from James McDonald and give the Pirates a 6-5 victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

The Pirates recaptured the lead in a five-run fourth inning, during which they sent nine men to the plate. Neil Walker and Russell Martin broke out of long slumps and Starling Marte continued to outduel opposing pitchers from the leadoff spot.

The win assured the Pirates of a series victory. Jonathan Sanchez will start against Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley today with a shot at a sweep.

McDonald lacked control of his fastball, which hovered around 90-91 miles per hour, early in the game. He gave an early lead right back in the bottom of the first. He walked two batters on eight pitches. Those walks hit home when both men scored on Miguel Montero's double.

"He's got to maintain his delivery," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's got to stay on the mound, get a sign and go. First inning, I didn't see the pace I saw last time out. I didn't see the rhythm. We got Russell [Martin] out there trying to get him going. The delivery was inconsistent."

Two batters later, Jason Kubel homered to the opposite field off a 1-0 two-seam fastball, giving the Diamondbacks a 4-1 lead and bringing pitching coach Ray Searage to the mound for a chat.

McDonald threw 31 pitches, only 15 of them strikes, in the first inning.

After the first, McDonald retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced. He worked around a leadoff double from Parra in the fifth and exited after walking Paul Goldschmidt to lead off the sixth.

He pitched five-plus innings and allowed four runs on four hits and four walks.

"I felt different two through five than I did in the first inning," McDonald said. "The first inning, I felt lackadaisical. I didn't feel as in rhythm, as in sync. After the second inning, my body felt different. I felt like I had better momentum."

Without control of his fastball, McDonald used more of his changeup, a split-change he fiddled with during the winter. The pitch sits in the low 80s and moves away from left-handers, and it benefited Tuesday from the open roof at Chase Field. A crosswind blew out toward left field, which may have aided the changeup's movement.

"I threw one [changeup] last start," McDonald said. "Today was the first time I felt like, at any moment, I could throw this pitch. I threw it twice in 3-2 counts and got guys out."

Pedro Alvarez led off the fourth, when the Pirates trailed 4-1, with a hard liner to right that bounced in and out of Kubel's glove. Travis Snider walked, and McDonald, who bunted into a force-out when the Diamondbacks employed the wheel play with men on first and second in the second inning, singled through the hole up the middle to load the bases.

Marte doubled to score two runs. Walker snapped his 0 for 21 streak with a ground-ball single to score two more, and Garrett Jones drove in Walker to give the Pirates a 6-4 lead.

"We got some balls to hit," Hurdle said. "We feel like we can compete in the box, we feel like we can stretch out at-bats."

Marte went 2 for 5 and Garrett Jones went 3 for 5.

For the second consecutive night the Pirates put the Diamondbacks' starter on the ropes in the first inning. Marte opened the game with a single for the fourth consecutive game, this time off right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy. From there, he created the Pirates' first run. He stole second easily, then tagged and advanced to third on Andrew McCutchen's fly-out in foul territory down the right-field line. With two outs, Jones grounded to second, but Aaron Hill couldn't field the ball cleanly and Marte scored.

Martin hit safely for the first time this season, doubling to left-center after Jones reached base.

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 10, 2013 5:00 AM


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