Pirates Back To .500 After James McDonald, Pedro Alvarez Key 4-1 Victory

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 28: Pedro Alvarez #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits an RBI double in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds during the game on May 28, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

If you knew in March that would be the headline of the recap of a May 28 game, you'd be pretty happy, wouldn't you? James McDonald pitched eight excellent innings and the Pirates scored four runs in the first three frames to top the Reds, 4-1, putting them at .500 for the season.

McDonald struck out five and walked one, allowing five hits. This was the first start in his last seven that he's failed to strike out at least seven batters, but I think we'll take this start too. Arbitrary endpoints and all, but McDonald now has 57 strikeouts and 13 walks in his last seven starts.

Pedro Alvarez got the Pirates on the board in the first inning with an opposite-field RBI double that barely missed clearing the wall in left. Garrett Jones then brought Alvarez home with a single to right.

In the second, Neil Walker made it 3-0 with an RBI double down the right field line. Then in the third, Alvarez doubled again to lead off the inning, and Rod Barajas brought him home with a single. (Alvarez's two doubles come on the heels of his homer yesterday; hopefully he's starting another hot streak.)

Walker, Alvarez and Barajas all had two hits. Barajas now appears to be all the way back after his dreadful start to the season, and he has a .692 OPS. As frustrating as he's been this season, he's provided exactly what should have been expected -- a poor average, but plus power for a catcher, and an OPS in the high .600s.

The Reds scored a run off Tony Watson in the ninth, but Joel Hanrahan entered in the middle of the inning and closed the door.

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