ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 30: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with teammates after the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on April 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Well, that pretty much turned out brilliantly. James McDonald struck out 10 over 7.2 innings (!!!) and 114 pitches, and Yamaico Navarro and Pedro Alvarez each hit two-run homers as the Pirates crushed the Braves 9-3 to split the series.
The Braves got two in the first when McDonald threw a knee-high fastball to Freddie Freeman, but the Bucs responded in the third when Rod Barajas walked, Jose Tabata doubled, Josh Harrison hit an RBI single, and Andrew McCutchen hit a sacrifice fly.
Then in the fourth, Navarro singled, and Alvarez smashed a no-doubter to right on a fastball by lefty Mike Minor. There was a little hand-wringing earlier this year about the types of pitches Alvarez was hitting, and who he was hitting them against. That doesn't appear to be a problem right now. He's hitting righties and lefties, and he's hitting fastballs.
In the bottom of the inning, Dan Uggla doubled and Eric Hinske (who went 4-for-4) brought him home on a short fly ball that McCutchen couldn't quite get to. In the sixth, though, Neil Walker singled, and Navarro brought him home with a line-drive blast to left. The Pirates got three more in a long seventh inning.
McDonald, meanwhile, stayed strong into the eighth, striking out Freeman in that inning and whiffing the side in the seventh. He has 18 strikeouts in his last two starts. McDonald's first inning was rocky (in addition to the Freeman homer, he also got breaks when Michael Bourn was the victim of a bad call at second, and Brian McCann's deep fly ball died on the track), but other than that, he was great. Chris Resop got the last four outs.