McDonald ineffective in 9-5 loss

James McDonald was just the most recent Pirates starter to struggle against the Marlins.

The last two did, too, and the Florida Marlins beat Pittsburgh 9-5 Thursday night for a three-game sweep.

"Three days in a row we dug big holes off the mound early," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

McDonald gave up eight runs in three innings, including home runs to Scott Cousins, Brett Hayes, and Mike Stanton. Each of the three hit his first homer of the season.

Cousins hit a grand slam for his first career home run, Hayes added a three run-homer, and Stanton a solo shot.

Cousins' shot to right-center field off McDonald (0-2) gave Florida a 4-1 lead in the second inning.

"It was basically right down the middle," McDonald said.

The night before, Charlie Morton gave up six runs in five innings. On Tuesday night, it was Paul Maholm who struggled — six runs in 3 2-3 innings.

Both games were 6-0 losses. The Pirates had a chance in this one.

Pittsburgh cut the lead to 9-5 in the sixth inning before Matt Diaz grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. Hanley Ramirez dove to his left and flipped to Omar Infante, who tossed it to first to end the inning.

"Obviously that was a key part of the game," Pirates' Pedro Alvarez said. "If Hanley doesn't make that play, it might be a different story. He made a great play."

Alvarez homered, had three hits and drove in two runs for the Pirates.

It was a positive, but not much consolation.

"We're not looking to find little nuggets," Hurdle said. "We're looking to win ball games. This is not a league where you try hard, this league you've got to do good."

For Florida, Chris Volstad (1-1) allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings for the Marlins.

"It feels very, very good," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "When Pittsburgh came in, they were playing very well, so we were playing a very good team. We've been playing well, we've been scoring runs, we've been finding ways to get those runs in."

Notes: Marlins LF Logan Morrison (foot sprain) was placed on the 15-day disabled list following the game retroactive to Wednesday. A corresponding move will be announced Friday. ... Pirates SS Josh Rodriguez recorded his first hit in the big leagues with an infield single in the fifth. "You don't picture your first hit in the big leagues like that," Rodriguez said. ... The Marlins have batted around the lineup in three consecutive games. ... Cousins became the seventh Marlins hitter to hit a grand slam as his first career home run.