Alvarez's big hits boost Pirates past Reds

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Third baseman Pedro Alvarez delivered two clutch hits on Thursday afternoon, but it wasn't his 417-foot home run in the sixth inning that most impressed Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. It was a bases-clearing double in the seventh on a 94 mph fastball from Cincinnati Reds rookie Tony Cingrani that Alvarez dumped into right field to put the Pirates ahead to stay.
"He can hit a ball out of any ballpark just by squaring it up," Hurdle said of Alvarez. "No bigger swing in the game than the left-on-left bases loaded double. Beautiful."
Alvarez went 3-for-4, homered and drove in five runs and starter Brandon Cumpton allowed one earned run in five innings to lift Pittsburgh to a 5-3 victory, securing a split of the four-game series at Great American Ball Park.
"This was a good series for our team, to hold serve here," Hurdle said. "We needed some big days from a number of people today. Pedro was one of them to give us a big day with the bat."
Alvarez hit a solo home run off Reds starter Homer Bailey to tie the score in the sixth in front of a sold-out crowd of 40,929.
"I felt OK," Bailey said. "I was only pitching with a fastball. They hit a lot of foul balls, and that drove up the pitch count. I was able to keep them at bay with just one pitch until the last couple of innings. I threw a real good pitch to Pedro Alvarez and he hit it out. It's tough. He had a great day."
Then, with the bases loaded in the seventh, he broke the game open with a bases-clearing double off Cingrani to put Pittsburgh (43-30) ahead 5-2.
"I'm just keeping the same approach and focus every day," Alvarez said. "It's mostly about repetition and getting the opportunity to play every day."
Jay Bruce hit his 15th home run for Cincinnati (44-30), which has lost six of 10 games this season against Pittsburgh.
Alfredo Simon (5-3) took the loss. Bryan Morris (4-2) got the victory.
"We had some guys down today after the long game last night," said Morris, who gave up two ninth-inning homers in Monday's series opener. "The ball can travel far here if you leave it up. The bullpen came in and got big outs today."
With closer Jason Grilli unavailable after pitching in Wednesday night's 13-inning loss, Tony Watson picked up his second save of the season with two perfect innings.
The Pirates (43-30) left 14 runners on base in Wednesday's marathon, and it looked like their struggles would continue when Starling Marte opened the game with a double but was stranded. Alvarez would later provide all of the clutch hitting the Bucs would need.
Cincinnati scored first in the opening inning when Shin-Soo Choo reached on a throwing error by Alvarez, stole second and scored on Joey Votto's hit. The Pirates tied the score in the third on Garrett Jones' two-out RBI.
Bruce put the Reds back on top in the fourth with a 415-foot homer to center on a 3-2 pitch from Cumpton, making the score 2-1.
Cumpton allowed two runs -- one earned -- and five hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Alvarez answered Bruce with his 16th homer, a solo shot off Bailey leading off the sixth to tie the score at 2. Bailey allowed two runs and six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in six innings.
"They've definitely made strides over the past couple of years, but it's early," Bailey said. "They have a good club, but the past couple of years, they've fallen into the pattern of fading, so we'll see. It's a long season."
NOTES: Bruce has homered in five of his past seven games. ... Alvarez homered for the sixth time in June, second most in the National League. ... Pirates right-handed pitcher Bryan Morris singled in the seventh for his first major-league hit. ... The Pirates added an arm to their depleted bullpen by recalling RHP Duke Welker from Triple-A Indianapolis and optioning OF Alex Presley to Triple-A. ... Bucs relievers Vin Mazzaro, Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon and Grilli were unavailable to pitch after working in Wednesday's 13-inning loss. ... Reds 3B Todd Frazier, a New Jersey native, changed his walk-up music from Frank Sinatra to the theme song from "The Sopranos," in memory of actor James Gandolfini, who passed away Thursday. ... Scoring change: Russell Martin's infield single in the third inning of Wednesday's game, which caromed off pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove and was ruled an error, was changed to a hit. Martin was also credited with a hit and RBI, and Arroyo gives up the hit and an earned run.