PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Pirates starter James McDonald continued his dominance of Major League Baseball Thursday night, earning his sixth win of the season and his first career complete game in a 9-1 victory against Minnesota.
McDonald (6-3) allowed just one run on six hits while striking out five batters. He threw a career-high 120 pitches, 76 of which went for strikes.
“It’s another step forward for him,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of McDonald’s complete game. “It’s on the resume — he went nine (innings).”
Hurdle added that the final batter of the game, former Pirate Ryan Doumit, was going to be McDonald’s final batter, out or not.
Doumit lined out to Jose Tabata in right field to end the game.
“He’s knocking things down this year, one at a time,” Hurdle said. “This was another one to get knocked down (a complete game). I thought it was the appropriate opportunity.”
It was the right opportunity for several reasons. Mainly, it was because McDonald never got caught in long innings. He was quick and efficient, allowing more than one hit to Minnesota in just one of his nine innings.
He didn’t surrender a single walk on the evening, which sped the game along as well.
Hurdle also noted that it was a hot night — 91 degrees at first pitch — and McDonald was loose.
Lastly, McDonald got better as the game went on. Twins (27-41) batters managed just one base runner in the final three innings.
“I had a talk with Rod (Barajas) after my last outing. He sat down and talked to me and said I need to be that guy that wants seven to nine innings every time out,” McDonald said. “As soon as I got to the seventh, that went into my brain the whole time.
“I kind of really wanted that and I could see that he wanted me to finish the game, all my teammates wanted me to finish the game. In finally believed in myself that I could finish the game.”
While he rarely missed his spots, McDonald was given more than enough breathing room by the Pittsburgh lineup.
Barajas, Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez all hit home runs as the Pirates (36-31) totaled 12 hits.
Leading 4-1 in the sixth, Barajas got hold of a pitch and sent it over the wall in left-center field for a 6-1 lead. Jones followed in the seventh with a line shot that snuck over the Clemente Wall in right field for an 8-1 advantage — a perfect way to cap his 31st birthday.
“Every birthday’s special,” Jones said. “To still be at the major league level and be contributing means a lot. It’s a little extra special when you can get a home run (on your birthday).”
Alvarez drove one clear out of PNC Park to right field in the next at-bat and the route was on for the Pirates.
It was smooth sailing for McDonald as well.
“He’s developed,” Barajas said. “He’s turned into a pitcher who’s calm under pressure, and that’s what you want.”
McDonald’s ERA is now down to 2.19 for the season.
Andrew McCutchen was a home run short of the cycle, recording a triple, double and single while driving in three runs. Alex Presley, Jones and Alvarez each had two-hit nights.
Twins starting pitcher Liam Hendricks (0-4) got the loss. He pitched five innings, surrendering six hits, three earned.
Chris Gates | Bucs Blog