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Marlins' Alvarez shuts down Pirates

The SportsXchange

MIAMI - Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was surprised by Henderson Alvarez, the Miami Marlins' starting pitcher.

And Alvarez, who earned his first win in a Marlins uniform, was a bit stunned, too.

"We saw a lot of tape on this young man, but what we saw tonight was a lot better than we saw on tape," said Hurdle, whose team remained 2 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race. "Fastball played up. Two-seamer had good darting movement down and away late. Changeup had good sink, late life."

Alvarez -- with help from four relievers -- outpitched Pirates All-Star Jeff Locke Friday night as Miami defeated Pittsburgh 2-0 at Marlins Park.

Alvarez (1-1) reached 98 mph on the radar gun as he allowed just two singles and one walk in six innings, striking out five.

"I was throwing hard in the bullpen, but I was a little surprised to hit 98," he said. "I hadn't thrown that hard yet."

Alvarez, who has now pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings, turned the game over to his bullpen in the seventh.

Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos struck out the side in the seventh. Mike Dunn and Chad Qualls combined to work a scoreless eighth, and closer Steve Cishek earned his 21st save of the season by blanking the Pirates in the ninth.

Cishek gave up two-out singles to Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez before retiring pinch-hitter Jose Tabata on a soft grounder to second.

It was a career-best 16th consecutive save for Cishek, who has not blown a save opportunity since June 4 at Philadelphia.

The Pirates' only extra-base hit came in the eighth, when former Marlin Gaby Sanchez, facing Dunn, looped a one-out double down the left-field line.

The Marlins then brought in Qualls, who extended his scoreless streak to 10 2/3 innings by getting Travis Snider to ground out to second and then striking out Michael McKenry. The groundout was precarious because Donovan Solano bobbled it before recovering to make the play. .

Locke, who struck out a career-high nine, allowed eight hits and six walks in 6 2/3 innings.

"It felt about the way it looked -- kind of all over the place," Locke said. "I felt good, which resulted in some good pitches. But I was nibbling too much."

Locke started his seventh inning by allowing a solo home run to Giancarlo Stanton, who crushed a fastball 391 feet to left to give Miami a 2-0 lead.

It was Stanton's 12th homer of the season.

Locke pitched out of consistent trouble before finally allowing a run in the sixth. The Marlins loaded the bases on a one-out walk by Solano, a single by Jake Marisnick and a walk by Jeff Mathis.

At that point, Mike Redmond, the Marlins' manager, decided to lift Alvarez after just 72 pitches in order to get pinch-hitter Placido Polanco in the game.

Polanco made the move pay off when he hit a run-scoring dribbler halfway between home and third base.

"It's always a tough decision when someone was pitching as well as Alvarez was," Redmond said. "But this is the best pitching staff in the National League we're going against, and I wasn't sure if we were going to get another chance. We went for it, and it worked out."

Locke escaped further damage by getting Adeiny Hechavarria on a lineout and Christian Yelich on a grounder.

The Marlins threatened in the second inning when Mathis drew a two-out walk and Alvarez hit a double that one-hopped the wall in left. Mathis tried to come all the way home, but he was cut down by Neil Walker's relay throw to Russell Martin, who took the collision and held on.

Of his double, Alvarez said: "I hit it with all I had."

NOTES: 1B Gaby Sanchez made his first trip back to Miami since he was traded to the Pirates last year. He had played his entire career -- prep (Brito), college (University of Miami) and pro (Marlins) -- in this city before he was traded last year. ... Friday was also the home debut for Marlins' rookies Yelich (LF) and Marisnick (CF). Marisnick's hard single up the middle off of Locke in the sixth was his first big-league hit, snapping an 0-for-14.skid to start his MLB career. ... Pirates LF Starling Marte made his big-league debut exactly one year ago on Friday. In that span, he has more triples (14) than any other player in the majors. ... Pirates SS Jordy Mercer extended his hit streak to a career-high 11 games Friday.
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