PITTSBURGH -- The harsh jury that remains out on Pedro Alvarez is not seeing his forest because of the trees. In his case, the trees are home runs, planted when as a 23-year-old rookie he had back-to-back multi-homer days in his 29th and 30th games in the Majors. That's become a tough calling card to live up to. People are impatient, and they continue to harp on his ongoing offensive struggles, particularly since moving in as the Pirates' cleanup hitter. Fans hung up on waiting for Alvarez the slugger are missing out on Alvarez the baseball player. The kid again showed off his other dimensions in the Bucs' 1-0 win over the Cubs on Friday. In many ways, it was his win.
Alvarez scored the only run, on Rod Barajas' second-inning single, with hustle and an instinctive fadeaway headlong slide. Three innings later, he protected that lead with his latest defensive gem. The Cubs had men on second and third with two outs and A.J. Burnett was on the ropes, when Joe Mather ripped a smash to the left of Alvarez and behind him. He gloved it, jumped upright and nailed him at first with a clothesline throw. It drew the immediate appreciation of a pointing and nodding Burnett, and later the kudos of manager Clint Hurdle. "That was a great play by a third baseman. Saved us two runs," Hurdle said. "He's made a number of those this year. He's made some errors [nine] because of a lack of focus, but he's also laid out and made those kind of plays. Pedro has worked as hard as any third baseman I've ever played with or coached." "I try to be ready every time I'm on defense and anticipate the ball being hit to me. I take a lot of pride in my defense," said Alvarez, who when apprised of his manager's praise nodded and added, "That's something no one can take away from me."