Alvarez slams Cardinals in 1st; McCutchen's wrist sprain not thought to be serious
Andrew McCutchen dives for a ball hit by St. Louis' Carlos Beltran in the third inning Saturday in St. Louis. McCutchen later left the game with a sprained wrist and is listed as day-to-day.
Jeff Karstens, who missed most of the first half of the season, earned his first win of 2012 Saturday with seven innings of work. He allowed four hits and struck out seven.
Continuing the onslaught that began Friday night, Pedro Alvarez hit a grand slam in the first inning Saturday to jump-start the Pirates in St. Louis. The homer was Alvarez's 15th.
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ST. LOUIS -- Breathe easy, Pirates fans.
Andrew McCutchen, star center fielder who leads the team in hits, runs, RBIs, batting average, on-base percentage and a host of other categories, appeared to escape serious injury Saturday after landing awkwardly on his left wrist while making a diving catch in the Pirates' 7-3 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Officially diagnosed with a left wrist sprain, McCutchen left the game in the seventh inning -- several innings after robbing Carlos Beltran of a bloop single in right-center field in the third. He remained on the ground for several seconds, grimacing and clutching his left wrist before heading to the dugout.
"I thought it was awesome, and then I thought he was hurt," pitcher Jeff Karstens said of the play. "Then, I was like, 'God, I wish he would have missed it and not [dived].' He's our best player. There's no ifs and buts about it. He's electric. He changes the game. You never want to see something like that."
McCutchen had his wrist examined through a fluoroscope, which is like a real-time X-ray, and the results indicated a sprain and nothing more.
"Everything's fine," McCutchen said.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he anticipates he will sit McCutchen today to give him extra time to rest his wrist. McCutchen chuckled at the idea.
"Yeah right. ... I'm not trying to get a day off," he said. "I get days off in the offseason."
His departure dampened a strong performance on the field, highlighted by Pedro Alvarez's second career grand slam and a stellar outing from Karstens.
Alvarez gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead in the first when he rocketed a full-count fastball 432 feet into the right-center field bleachers for his 15th home run this season. It was the third time in the past two games Alvarez had batted with the bases loaded, and he drove in eight runs in that span.
With the home run, Alvarez is hitting .636 with 21 RBIs and two home runs in 11 at-bats with the bases loaded.
"It's easy sometimes to try to get selfish and try to do too much," McCutchen said. "You've just got to treat it like any other at-bat."
It was the Pirates' first grand slam since Derrek Lee homered off Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol Sept. 3, 2011 at Wrigley Field.
All the first-inning offense came with two outs. McCutchen and Garrett Jones hit back-to-back singles, and Neil Walker walked before Alvarez's grand slam.
The Pirates wound up tagging Cardinals 10-game-winner Lance Lynn for six earned runs on seven hits in five innings.
With the win, the Pirates are on the precipice of doing something they have not done since May 1991 -- sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Karstens pitched into the seventh for the first time this season, allowing two earned runs and four hits in seven innings.
It was his second start since returning from the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder.
He credited catcher Michael McKenry for creating a sound game plan that helped him find his strengths on the mound.
"A few more off-speed pitches, a few more breaking balls," Karstens said. "I have to do those kinds of things to make my fastball play better."
After allowing two runs in the third, Karstens took command.
"The change of speeds really came into play," Hurdle said.
The Pirates added two runs in the fifth when Walker's double scored Jose Tabata and Jones.
Reliever Jared Hughes recorded the final four outs to pick up his first career save -- only he did not realize it until he got back in the clubhouse and someone told him.
The Pirates tracked down the ball he used to record the final out and returned it to Hughes.
"I heard someone say 'Hughesy, that was your first save.' I wasn't focused on that," Hughes said. "When I'm out there, I'm just trying to win. I'm out there just trying to get ground balls. And, shoot, it just so happened."
Game: Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium.
When: 2:15 p.m.
First Published July 1, 2012 12:06 am