PITTSBURGH -- It might sound unbelievable, but Pirates pitcher James McDonald said he didn't have his best stuff Thursday night at PNC Park. Both he and catcher Rod Barajas admitted as much after the game, explaining that the lanky right-hander's slider was practically non-existent. Not that it mattered. The pitcher moved his record to 6-3 with a complete-game performance, the first of his career. He struck out five batters and walked none in the Pirates' 9-1 win over the Twins.
"I threw a couple decent sliders, but it was a non-factor today," McDonald said. "The fastball-curveball mix was mainly what I went with." Pirates manager Clint Hurdle described the pitcher's performance as another step forward, something that's "on the resume." "It was a good, hot night. He was loose," Hurdle said. "He was smelling it from the seventh on. He got himself in a position to do it, and he did it. "He was just attacking people and working in a very good rhythm." McDonald threw 120 pitches in the outing, 76 of which went for strikes. He retired eight of the first nine hitters he faced. As a Pirate, McDonald is 12-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts at PNC Park. Minnesota's only run came in the fourth inning, when Ryan Doumit singled in Trevor Plouffe, who had doubled in the previous at-bat. Only three Twins reached base from that point on, one of whom got to first on an error by Pirates shortstop Josh Harrison. "With J-Mac, you just want to keep it going, just keep the rhythm going," Barajas said. "He's been doing a great job of that." When asked if it surprised him how few strikeouts McDonald recorded, Barajas responded, "Yes and no." Following a first inning in which two Twins went down swinging, the catcher said Minnesota started to adjust to McDonald's curveball, one of the two pitches working for him Thursday. "It's hard to be a two-pitch guy at this level and have success," Barajas said. "But he was able to do that today. He was able to go out there and just battle through it, figure out a way to get these guys out."
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.