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Pedro Alvarez, Pirates dominate Cardinals, 12-2

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Justin K. Aller

The Pirates broke out offensively Friday night, turning what had been a close game into a 12-2 blowout.

Pedro Alvarez gave the Pirates an early lead with a leadoff opposite-field shot in the second. (It was a no-doubter, too -- that's not easy to do on an opposite-field homer, especially not as a lefty in PNC Park.) The Pirates stranded Starling Marte after a two-out triple in the third (and it's at least remotely possible that Marte would have had an inside-the-park homer if he'd run hard out of the box). But in the fourth, Alvarez hit another impressive home run, this time to center, and Travis Ishikawa followed two batters later with another homer, his first in the big leagues since 2012.

Gerrit Cole almost came apart in a fourth inning in which he seemed to have trouble locating, and the Cardinals cut the lead to one in the fifth on a two-run shot by Matt Carpenter. But Cole managed to keep it together for another couple innings, and the Bucs pulled away with a series of ground balls to score three runs in the sixth. Russell Martin spiked a grounder up the middle to score Alvarez, who just beat the throw home. Then Neil Walker singled, and Martin came home on Yadier Molina's throwing error. Then Gaby Sanchez brought Walker home with a ground-ball single of his own.

The Pirates got one more run in the seventh, then peeled off five more in the eighth, by which point they were way ahead, cruising to what became an easy win. The game also featured a spectacular play by Russell Martin to throw out Peter Bourjos after a well-placed bunt, Andrew McCutchen doing a finger-shooting routine after hitting a two-run triple, and a fan catching a ball with a bucket of popcorn. That's a good game, in my book.