McDonald, Bucs' bats filet the Fish

McDonald, Bucs' bats filet the Fish

PITTSBURGH -- All of the offensive deficiencies that made the Pirates' most recent road trip especially trying were no issue on Monday night, as the Pirates opened a 10-game home stand with a 7-1 win over the Marlins.

The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak. It also further highlighted how much better this Pittsburgh ballclub plays along the banks of the Allegheny River than on the road.

The Pirates' 27-30 home record is obviously a sharp contrast to the team's Major League-worst 13-48 mark outside of Pittsburgh. And the numbers show why.

Pittsburgh, which scored just 11 runs on its recent 0-6 road trip, tallied more on Monday than the club had in the last four road games combined. That pushed the team's average runs scored at home this season to 4.11, more than a run better than the 2.85 runs averaged away from home.

"We seem to get the key hits more often at home," said Garrett Jones, who finished with a three-RBI night. "We play good baseball at home and just need to carry it on when we go on the road. It's something that we're capable of doing. It's just a matter of doing it."

On the pitching end -- which featured a stellar seven-inning performance from recent rotation addition James McDonald in this win -- there are similar location discrepancies. The team's road ERA sits at 5.65, while the home mark is a much more respectable 4.47.

"Just being at home, you're a lot more comfortable and at ease," Pedro Alvarez said. "You've got the fans behind you and that helps a lot, believe it or not."

Though there was an announced attendance of only 13,396, the familiar confines apparently aided the core group of five atop the Pirates' lineup. Alvarez matched Jones with three RBIs, as the pair drove in the first six runs the team scored.

A two-run first off Florida's Chris Volstad was highlighted by Jones' sacrifice fly and Alvarez's two-out single. In the sixth, the Pirates opened up a five-run lead with consecutive two-run hits by the pair of corner infielders.

The RBI situations, of course, were set up by the ability of Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker to reach base in front of Jones and Alvarez. Each of the lineup's top three hitters reached base twice and scored two times. McCutchen scored the final run of the night with a solo shot to lead off the seventh.

"Those five guys at the top can really do some things for us no matter where they are," manager John Russell said. "They came out tonight and did some good things. We're starting to see some things that they're capable of doing. It's just the consistency of it. We went through a really tough stretch and it was nice to see the guys break out of it tonight."

All the run support benefited McDonald, who once again shined at PNC Park. Bouncing back from an inefficient outing in San Diego, McDonald gave up just one run in a career-best seven-inning start. He struck out six to bring his strikeout total to 14 in his 13 innings pitched at home since being acquired from the Dodgers on July 31.

McDonald had posted six scoreless innings in his previous start at his new home ballpark.

"I love this guy," Russell said. "I hated him when he pitched against us. I knew what he could bring. He's a guy that, when he goes out there, you know he's going to give you a pretty good start.

"When he got ahead of people, he put them away early -- as opposed to them taking a few pitches. In turn, he was able to go a lot deeper in the game."

That efficiency and ability to throw a put-away pitch had been missing in his 4 2/3-inning start last Wednesday. But with a dynamite curveball and effective changeup to complement his fastball, McDonald had little issue tempering the Marlins' lineup.

"It was real important," McDonald said of his curve. "I showed I could throw it for a strike early in the game, so later in the game it kind of became [a situation] where they chased it a little more."

Florida advanced only two runners into scoring position against the Pittsburgh right-hander -- and only one of those scored. Logan Morrison led off the fourth with a double and advanced home on consecutive groundouts. McDonald ended his outing by retiring the 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.

Now in 17 1/3 career innings at PNC Park, McDonald has allowed only three runs and has struck out 20.

"He pitched an outstanding game," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "He was mixing his pitches. He had a 90-92 mph fastball. The breaking ball was working. When he has that breaking ball working for strikes, he is tough to hit and he proved that tonight."

As the Pirates' win snapped their fourth losing streak of at least seven games this season, it extended the Marlins' current skid to four games. Pittsburgh has now won five straight over Florida, which is just 9-20 all-time at PNC Park.

"I thought we played great baseball," Alvarez said. "We just gave ourselves a good chance to win this game. That's what we need to do every time -- is just give ourselves an opportunity to win ballgames."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.