The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez is congratulated in the dugout after he hit a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres Tuesday.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SAN DIEGO — One homer sliced high in the air to left-center field, the other raced out like a laser beam to right field. The two-run blasts were all the Pirates would need.
Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez provided the scoring in the Pirates’ 4-1 win against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park Tuesday, their third consecutive win and the fifth in the past six games. They moved within two games of .500.
“We knew we didn’t play our best ball in New York and we had to move on from there,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We left it behind us.”
The runs came as the Pirates took advantage early of a starter making his major league debut and forced yet another long night at the office for the Padres’ bullpen.
Driving an outside curveball out to the opposite field at Petco isn’t easy, but Walker managed to do it. His 11th homer of the season gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the third.
“I wasn’t trying to hit the ball that way,” Walker said. “Sometimes when you look for certain pitches, you just try to get a barrel on them.”
Alvarez hit a two-run homer the following inning to extend the lead to 4-0. Alvarez tied Walker for the team lead with 11 home runs.
In 5⅔ innings, Gerrit Cole (6-3) allowed one run on four hits. Three of those hits came from the final three batters he faced in the sixth inning. He walked two and struck out six, but was disappointed with the outing.
“I wasn’t very efficient at all, especially with a four-run lead,” said Cole, who threw 100 pitches. “It’s pretty frustrating.”
Cole had retired 11 batters in a row until there were two out in the sixth, when Chase Headley singled to left field. Seth Smith followed with a single to put two on for Yonder Alonso. Alonso singled to score a run and force Cole from the game.
“We got the ground ball that we wanted [from] Alonso,” Cole said. “He just beat the shift.”
Jared Hughes entered to face Jedd Gyorko, who hit a grounder back up the middle, but Walker made a sliding stop to end the inning. Hughes worked only that one-third of an inning but stranded his 13th and 14th consecutive inherited runners this season without allowing one to score.
Hughes, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli combined to pitch 3⅓ scoreless innings without allowing a hit to hold the lead. Grilli earned his ninth save.
“Jared coming in and staying confident that, if we keep throwing ground balls, they’re going to go to somebody, and lo and behold, Neil makes a nice play and we get out of it,” Cole said.
Right-hander Jesse Hahn debuted for the Padres with no experience above Class AA and only seven starts at that level, all of which came this season. The five innings and 69 pitches thrown in his most recent outing for Class AA San Antonio both represented season highs, indicating he was not long for Tuesday’s game regardless of performance.
Hahn pitched well in his first pass through the Pirates’ batters but struggled as the lineup turned over.
“It was easier, timing-wise, the second time through the order to get a feel for what he was trying to do and to time him up,” Walker said.
Hahn exited after allowing six hits in 3⅔ innings. That became an issue because the Padres used six relievers to cover 6⅓ innings Monday night. Prior to Tuesday’s game, they optioned right-hander Donn Roach, who threw 36 pitches Monday night, and recalled lefty Jason Lane.
Lane, 37, converted from an outfielder to pitching in 2009. The previous time Lane was on a major league roster, he played for the Padres on Oct. 1, 2007. That date was Game 163, the regular-season, one-game playoff during which Hurdle’s Colorado Rockies won on a 13th-inning walk-off and eventually advanced to the World Series.
Lane’s path to pitching took him to the farm systems of the Toronto Blue Jays, Florida – now Miami – Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks, along with two Independent League clubs, before he returned to the Padres. Making his major league debut as a pitcher, Lane relieved Hahn in the fourth inning and struck out Walker to strand two runners. He pitched 3⅓ perfect innings and struck out three.
“You watch him work, he slowed the game down,” Hurdle said. “He got them to a good place in that game. Showed a feel to pitch. Kind of hid his fastball and used a very effective changeup and some breaking balls. He flat-out pitched out there and kept them in the game.”
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