Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 8/28/12

 Pedro Alvarez and James McDonald put on a show as the Pirates put together a phenomenal all-around game to destroy the Cardinals 9-0. The win gets the Bucs to two back of St. Louis and sets up a rubber match for Wednesday’s national TV game.

The Pirates got McDonald a quick run in the first inning, then nearly added on in the second. Josh Harrison tried to come around and score on Jose Tabata‘s single with two outs, but Carlos Beltran gunned the ball to Yadier Molina just as Harrison approached the plate. Molina made an amazing pick and tag, while Harrison went full throttle straight into the Cards’ All-Star catcher, head-first. Molina somehow held on for the out, but paid a severe price. He was down for a while after the brutal collision and was removed from the game–and while he hasn’t hit the DL yet, the Cardinals have called up a catcher from Triple-A. Much respect to Molina for the plate–he’s probably the best in the business, and it would be unfortunate for the Cardinals (but not so unfortunate for the Pirates) if he has to miss time.

It was one of those “hard-nosed, gritty, all-out” plays you hear people gush about Harrison for, and it wasn’t illegal or malicious. Harrison later said “I felt it was the only play I had” and repeated that he didn’t want to see anyone get hurt. He also clapped for Molina from the dugout once he got up. Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook hit Harrison in the lower leg in his second at-bat following the incident (once the game was getting away from the Cards) and J-Hay trotted down to first without a word. Benches were warned, and while Clint Hurdle wasn’t happy about the warning, I think that’ll be the end of it.

Whether it was because of Harrison or not, the Pirates played inspired ball for the rest of the night. McDonald was brilliant, posting his best line of the season if you go by game score (78 tonight, his previous high this year was 76, which he had reached four times). J-Mac sailed through the dangerous Cardinal lineup with ease just as he did the last time he faced them, allowing just two hits and one walk. I don’t have any idea what the deal is with McDonald (maybe he just likes facing the league’s best offensive team?) but if he can pitch like he did tonight, the Pirates can feel a lot better about their chances down the stretch.

McDonald’s performance won’t even reach the headlines, though, thanks to Pedro Alvarez. El Toro had an absolutely ridiculous night, completely torching the Cardinals as he has done for most of the season. Pedro singled in his first AB, then his second time up he belted a low-and-inside pitch OVER THE NORTH SIDE NOTCH. That’s opposite field for him, which is a ridiculously impressive blast. It was also a 2-run shot to put the Pirates up 3-0.

The Bucs kept on hitting, and essentially put the game away after a Pedro double, Harrison’s HBP, and a slew of singles and Harrison’s HBP led to a four-run inning to make it 7-0. But El Toro wasn’t done yet. His next time up, he absolutely demolished one to center. It cleared the stands and bounced on to the riverwalk before some guy prevented it from getting wet….but this was a shot to CENTER, not right. The estimated distance was 469 ft, which makes it the longest bomb by a Pirate at PNC Park (and the 4th longest overall). It also marked Alvarez’s 25th homer, giving him the team lead.

Every starter had at least one hit, and Andrew McCutchen posted his second tw0-hit night in a row. Hopefully he’s starting to come around as well. Chris Resop and Hisanori Takahashi completed the shutout after McDonald went seven. It was really a brilliant night for the Pirates on all fronts. They needed a game like this, and while it’s one game, it’s a very big game.  Hopefully it can spark them a bit going forward.

Pirates 9, Cardinals 0 / Box / 2012 Record: 69-60 / Next: Wednesday, vs. Cardinals, 7:05

MVP: McDonald (+.232) / LVP: McKenry (-.034) / Key play: Pedro’s first HR

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