Atlanta, GA – The Pirates broke out the bats in support of James McDonald.
Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run home run off his college teammate Mike Minor, and the Pirates posted their most runs of the season in a 9-3 victory over the Braves at Turner Field.
McDonald (1-1) gave up three runs on seven hits with two walks and a career- best 10 strikeouts over 7 2/3 frames for the Pirates, who have won two of three. Jose Tabata scored twice, Neil Walker finished 3-for-5 and Yamaico Navarro clubbed a two-run home run and drove in three for Pittsburgh, which scored more than five runs for the first time this season.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and keep my team in the game," said McDonald. "Guys were jumping on the fast balls early, so we switched things up and went to my off speed."
Minor (2-2) gave up seven runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts and three walks over 6 1/3 frames for Atlanta, which lost for the second time in three games and split this wraparound series with the Pirates. Eric Hinske matched a career high with four hits, while Freddie Freeman hit a two-run home run in the loss.
"We settled down a little bit and starting making pitches. He didn't give us much to hit," said Freeman of McDonald. "We still hit some balls hard, but they went right at people in the later innings."
The Braves jumped out to an early lead against McDonald, as Michael Bourn singled but was erased on a questionable call at second on a steal attempt. Martin Prado then walked and Freeman lined a rocket that quickly found the right-field seats for a 2-0 edge.
Pittsburgh got its first two men on base in the second with a Casey McGehee double and Walker bunt single, but a pop out and double play squandered the threat. The visitors, however, seized a scoring opportunity in the third, as Josh Harrison knocked in Rod Barajas with a single and Andrew McCutchen allowed Tabata to cross the plate with a sacrifice fly to center.
Alvarez, who grounded into the inning-ending double play in the second, made amends with a two-run shot in the fourth, giving Pittsburgh the 4-3 advantage.
The Pirates chased Minor and blew the game open with a pair of crooked numbers in the sixth and seventh frames. First, they played long ball with Navarro's line-drive, two-run home run that just cleared the wall tight to the left field line for a 6-3 edge.
Minor left in the seventh with a runner on second and one out, leaving the ball in Chad Durbin's hands. The Pirates pounced with a McCutchen single to place runners on the corners and a passed ball that plated Tabata and moved the Pittsburgh center fielder into scoring position. Walker drove him home with a single to right following a walk issued to McGehee, who scored on Navarro's groundout for a 9-3 game.
Pittsburgh continues its road trip in St. Louis for three games starting on Tuesday...The Braves host Philadelphia for three games starting Tuesday...Atlanta has still won 12 of the last 19 games against the Pirates...Every member of the Pirates starting eight finished with at least one hit...Hinske's last four-hit game came on July 3, 2004...Alvarez and Minor were college teammates at Vanderbilt.