McDonald, Pirates Blow Out Cardinals, 9-0

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28: James McDonald #53 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the game on August 28, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

James McDonald needed a win, and so did James McDonald's Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, they got one, beating Wild Card rivals St. Louis in a laugher, 9-0.

At the All-Star break, McDonald was 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA. In his last start before the break, McDonald pitched seven innings against the Giants, giving up just one run and one walk while striking out 10. And with their victory, McDonald's Pirates maintained their one-game lead over the second-place Reds in the National League Central.

But as McDonald has gone, so have the Pirates. In his first eight starts after the All-Star break, McDonald went just 2-3 with a 7.31 ERA. The Pirates lost six of those games, and fallen far behind the Reds in the Central. Worse, they'd also fallen to fourth in the Wild Card standings. It looked their non-postseason streak would, after all, reach 20 straight seasons.

It still looks like that, but Tuesday night everybody got better for at least one evening. McDonald went seven innings for the first time in the second half of the season, holding the Cardinals to two hits and zero runs. Meanwhile, McDonald's teammates pasted St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook for seven runs in five innings. With Westbrook out of the game, the Bucs tacked on a couple of runs against reliever Brandon Dickson.

Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez did the most damage, going 4 for 4 with two long home runs, a two-run shot off Westbrook and a solo blast against Dickson. Alvarez's second homer was measured at 469 feet, the longest ever hit by a Pirate at PNC Park. With 25 home runs, Alvarez leads all National League third basemen.

The Cardinals got a scare in the bottom of the second inning, when catcher Yadier Molina was leveled by second baseman Josh Harrison in a play at the plate. Molina held the ball to record the out, but had to leave the game. Later, he was diagnosed with strained muscles in his upper back, left shoulder, and neck.

The Pirates picked up a game on the Cardinals in the Wild Card standings, and will try to pick up another in Wednesday night's series finale.

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