Wandy Rodriguez thoroughly dominated the Braves Friday night, facing the minimum number of batters while allowing one hit in seven shutout innings, as the Pirates beat the Braves 6-0.
The Pirates got their runs in two big innings. In the second, Neil Walker tripled to lead off, and Pedro Alvarez hit a no-doubt homer for the second consecutive game, smashing a ball over the Clemente Wall and onto the concourse below. Russell Martin then followed with a double, and Jose Tabata knocked him in three batters later with a double of his own.
In the fifth, Tabata, Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen loaded the bases, and Garrett Jones brought home Tabata and Snider with a single to left. The Braves pulled Tim Hudson after that, but the Pirates got one more run later in the inning when John McDonald struck out but reached on Anthony Varvaro's wild pitch.
B.J. Upton was ejected in the seventh for arguing after striking out. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect eighth (good thing the Pirates didn't use him last night) and Vin Mazzaro got a double play and a strikeout in the ninth. The double play meant the Pirates faced the minimum 27 batters overall.
As for Rodriguez, it seems we can stop worrying about his health. He struck out five, walked none and had his curveball snapping all night. He threw 55 of 82 pitches for strikes. The Pirates' rotation has been dubious overall, but Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett have been amazing so far.
"When [Rodriguez has] that breaking ball on top of that fastball command, it was like A.J. the other night, basically," Clint Hurdle said. "It's almost two pitches for the entire night against a really good offensive team."
Snider had another strong game, going 2-for-4 with a double. He's also having terrific at bats, laying off tough pitches just outside the strike zone and lacing a high percentage of the pitches at which he does swing. You could make a case for Starling Marte or Garrett Jones, but Snider has arguably been the Pirates' best hitter so far this year.
David Manel contributed to this post.