Strong Defense, James McDonald's Strikeouts, Neil Walker's Homer Highlight 3-2 Win

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 5: James McDonald #53 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Cincinnati Reds during the game on May 5, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

James McDonald continued his strong recent pitching, striking out one batter after another with great breaking stuff, and he got some help from his defense, too.

McDonald had six strikeouts through three innings (he ended up with seven total), but in the fourth, he gave up a leadoff double to Joey Votto. After Brandon Phillips moved Votto over with a grounder, Casey McGehee made a brilliant double play on a grounder by Jay Bruce, nailing Votto at home. Then in the fifth, McDonald walked leadoff man Scott Rolen, but erased him when Clint Barmes fielded a grounder by Zack Cozart and made a nice flip to second to start another double play. In the sixth, Jose Tabata bailed McDonald out with a running catch near the wall in left.

McDonald left in the seventh after giving up a run on a triple by Bruce and a single by Rolen, but by that point, the Bucs had already had a lead, thanks to Neil Walker's first homer of the season. Juan Cruz relieved McDonald and promptly got Ryan Ludwick to fly out to center, at which point Rolen tried to tag from first and Andrew McCutchen easily gunned him down.

Alex Presley, who had appeared to have the night off after a recent streak of bad games, came in on a double switch when McDonald left and hit a solo homer of his own in the bottom of the seventh.

Jason Grilli gave up a double and a single in the eighth but struck out two, limiting the Reds to one run. Joel Hanrahan pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-2 but walked twice, which is an excellent sign. I'd almost rather have Alvarez drawing walks than hitting homers right now, because when he cools off a bit, his strike zone judgment is the element of his game that hopefully will prevent pitchers from abusing him the way they were a few weeks ago.

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