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The Grand Slam: Short-handed Pirates pick up fourth straight win

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

The Pittsburgh Pirates were already down one outfielder before they even showed up to PNC Park on Saturday night with Travis Snider serving the second game of his two-game suspension. Not long after arriving, they found out they were down two outfielders after Andrew McCutchen reported for duty with soreness in his left foot. And then once the game started, the unfortunate trifecta was complete when Starling Marte was forced to leave the game with tightness in his lower back.

That left manager Clint Hurdle in a bind, but his squad was able to rally for a four run fourth inning to win their fourth straight, 4-3, over the division rival St. Louis Cardinals. That's a lot of fours, and it was No. 24, Pedro Alvarez, who delivered the go-ahead run with a clean RBI single to center.

The Pirates then went into something of a prevent defense with backup first baseman Gaby Sanchez and shortstop Jordy Mercer both making their outfield debuts. Jose Tabata played the entire game in center field, so at least they had an anchor, but the others were left seeking desperate advice from the regulars.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune:

After Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen were cut down by injuries, Gaby Sanchez played the fifth, sixth and seventh innings in right field. Jordy Mercer went into right in the eighth inning.

Neither Sanchez nor Mercer had played in the outfield before in the majors. Mercer appeared in left field in one game for Triple-A Indianapolis in 2011.

“I told them, ‘Play deep and straight up and you'll be fine,''' said McCutchen.

Sound advice.

As for how the outfield will look on Sunday night, McCutchen says he expects to be back in the lineup. Snider will be there too with his suspension completed. Marte, on the other hand, sounds unlikely due to his back issues. But the Pirates should be good to go in the short term with Tabata and Josh Harrison also available.

GREINKE EXTENDS IMPRESSIVE STREAK: Make that 20 consecutive starts in which Zack Greinke has allowed fewer than three runs - the longest by any pitcher since the ''dead ball'' era - as the Dodgers picked up a big 6-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday.

The 30-year-old right-hander ended up working seven innings of two run ball, but really had his work cut out for him to keep his streak alive. San Francisco jumped on him, plating two quick runs in the second innings on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Pence and an RBI single by Buster Posey, but true to form, Greinke put his foot down and waited for his offense to get on track.

''It's always a luxury to have two Cy Young winners at the top of your rotation like Zack and Clayton Kershaw. That's a plus for our team,'' Kemp said. ''Hopefully they'll continue to stay healthy and keep doing what they're doing. But we have to do our job as hitters and drive in runs for those guys.''

Do their job they did in the sixth when they broke through for two runs against a returning Matt Cain. Los Angeles would add two runs in the seventh on back-to-back RBI doubles from Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig, and then two more in the eighth inning, highlighted by Matt Kemp's home run. All four were scored on the Giants dominant bullpen, which entered play on Sunday a league best 1.75 ERA.

YOUTH SERVES FOR ANGELS:

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(USA TODAY Sports)

The Los Angeles Angels turned to their other young players for guidance on Saturday, and both starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs and recently recalled C.J. Cron answered the call in their 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays

On the hill, the 23-year-old Skaggs pitched into the ninth inning, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits. The young left-hander also struck out four and at one point retired 21 straight batters as he cruised to his third win of the season. Offensively, catcher Chris Iannetta helped Skaggs cause with a go-ahead two-run homer in the second. Cron, who got the start at first base, contributed two hits, including his first major league home run off J.A. Happ.

STILL WINLESS IN CHICAGO: Poor Jeff Samardzija still can't get a win for the Chicago Cubs. Despite six scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, he was the recipient of yet another no-decision as the Cubs offense was blanked by Ervin Santana and two Atlanta Braves relievers, and ultimately fell 2-0

Samardzija's season ERA dropped to a miniscule 1.45 over eight starts this season. He's yet to allow more than three earned runs in any start, and has held the opposition scoreless three times, but his record still stands at 0-3. If you're still clinging to pitcher wins as a meaningful stat (we've all been there at some point) bookmark this and return for later viewing, because the Cubs ace is the new poster boy for "wins don't matter."

Credit where it's due though for Ervin Santana. He tossed seven scoreless innings himself, which was just enough to get his fourth victory in six starts. He struck out seven and allowed four hits. Craig Kimbrel notched his tenth save with a clean ninth after blowing a save on Friday.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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