After Pedro Alvarez and James McDonald led the Pirates to a huge 9-0 victory on Tuesday, Alvarez and another starting pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, keyed another Bucs shutout, beating the Cardinals 5-0 in yet another huge game.
The Bucs scored one in the bottom of the first when Travis Snider hit a one-out double to left, and Garrett Jones brought him home with a double of his own, smacking a line drive off the wall in right. But the Bucs broke it open in the third. Joe Kelly walked Snider and Jones, and Alvarez came up with two outs. Alvarez had grounded out in his first at-bat, but this was a spot where, in those fleeting moments when Alvarez is locked in, you can predict something great will happen and feel pretty confident about it. This time, Alvarez was locked in, and something great did happen -- he blasted a 3-1 slider for a no-doubt home run to right, the kind of bomb over the Clemente Wall the Pirates were probably dreaming of when they drafted him in the first place.
Alvarez also doubled in the fifth and came home on a single by Josh Harrison, but by that point, the Pirates had a big enough lead that it didn't matter much. Rodriguez, meanwhile, didn't dominate, striking out three and walking three over six innings, but the Cardinals still didn't have any runs when he left. Tony Watson, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan did dominate, striking out a total of five batters in the three innings they combined to pitch and never giving St. Louis much of a chance. The Cards had no extra-base hits and didn't muster much offense at all.
After dropping the first game of this series, the Pirates needed a big finish in order to keep themselves in the Wild Card discussion. They did that, and then some, whipping a very good team in two games by a combined score of 14-0. With Pedro Alvarez on fire, a starting rotation that suddenly looks palatable, and a very cushy schedule, the Pirates find themselves back within a game of a playoff spot, and their outlook looks as good as we could have imagined it looking two days ago.