Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez celebrates his home run Friday in the second inning at PNC Park.
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez rounds the bases after hitting his second home run of the game off of Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller Friday night at PNC Park.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The day likely will never come when Pedro Alvarez is referred to as a power/speed threat, but, for one game, he served as a passable facsimile.
After hitting two home runs in his first two at-bats, Alvarez used his legs to score a run his third time up. That’s how the Pirates’ game went offensively Friday night: Power early, runners in motion late, and it all led to a 12-2 win against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. A slew of runs against the Cardinals bullpen in the late innings added style points.
“He’s been patient,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Alvarez. “He’s been sticking with his approach. Paid off for him [Friday night].”
The Pirates pounded Cardinals starter Shelby Miller early, then used a steal and hit-and-runs to pile on against Miller and two Cardinals relievers in a three-run sixth. Russell Martin had two RBI singles, blocked several pitches in the dirt and made a great defensive play on a tough bunt. The Pirates scored more runs in the game Friday, which started 1 hour, 5 minutes late because of a rain delay, than they did in their first three games combined.
“[Friday night], we got pitches to hit, we didn’t miss them when we got them,” Hurdle said.
Alvarez hit a fastball to the opposite field in the second and pulled a changeup to right-center field in the fourth. Travis Ishikawa followed three batters later with his first home run as a Pirates player. He drove a 1-2 fastball over the Clemente Wall in right to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
Game: Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: MLB Network, KDKA-FM (93.7).
Probable starters: LHP Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00; 10 K in 6 IP in opening-day start) vs. RHP Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA in 2013).
Key matchup: Liriano vs. Jhonny Peralta, who is 13 for 37 against him in his career.
Hidden stat: Hidden stat: Kelly had a 2.28 ERA as a starter in 2013, more than a run better than his relief ERA.
Alvarez displayed versatility in the sixth. After beating out a double play, Alvarez stole second. That became important when Martin singled because it allowed Alvarez to score, barely getting a hand on the plate under Yadier Molina’s tag.
Alvarez was not immediately available for comment in the clubhouse after the game.
Martin was running on the pitch to Neil Walker, who singled, putting runners on the corners. Then Walker took off for second on another hit-and-run, but the pitch was in the dirt. Molina pump-faked to second, drawing Martin toward the plate, and Molina threw to third. The throw hit Martin and bounced away, allowing him to score.
“You got one of the best defensive catchers in the game, so everybody knows a straight-out steal isn’t one of your best options,” Hurdle said of sending runners in motion. “Especially as well as that team holds runners, also.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny argued, apparently for an obstruction call, and the umpires huddled briefly, but the play stood. Gaby Sanchez’s pinch-hit RBI single gave the Pirates a 6-2 lead.
In seven innings Friday, starter Gerrit Cole allowed two runs on six hits, walking two and striking out three.
“I thought it was just a really well-played ballgame on our part,” Cole said.
Cole’s start Friday was his first in a major league game since Game 5 of the 2013 National League Division Series against the Cardinals. He allowed two runs in five innings in that loss which eliminated the Pirates from the playoffs.
Friday also began his first full season in the majors because he made his debut with the Pirates in June.
Matt Carpenter singled to start the game, but Cole then retired the next nine batters. That easy cruise through the lineup hit the brakes in the fourth.
Kolten Wong and Matt Holliday singled, jumping on Cole’s fastball early in the count. Allen Craig and Molina each flied out, but Cole threw a wild pitch to Matt Adams that moved the runners over. Adams eventually walked to load the bases, but Jhonny Peralta flied out to leave the bases loaded.
Pitching with a 3-0 lead in the fifth, Cole allowed the Cardinals to pull within a run. Miller singled before Carpenter hit a laser to right field on a changeup that found the middle of the plate. The two-run homer cut the Pirates’ lead to 3-2.
“We knew it was going to be tough game,” Cole said. “You can’t say enough about how good they are.”
A three-run sixth, plus a five-run eighth, removed doubt from what was once a close game.
“We jumped on them pretty good,” Cole said. “That’s all you can say about that.”
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.
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