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Rodriguez, Pirates shut out Cardinals again

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez smiles after hitting a double during the fifth inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez smiles after hitting a double during the fifth inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison drives in a run with a double during the fifth inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison drives in a run with a double during the fifth inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez delivers during the first inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez delivers during the first inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is greeted at the dugout by catcher catcher Rod Barajas after hitting a three-run home run during the third inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez is greeted at the dugout by catcher catcher Rod Barajas after hitting a three-run home run during the third inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez hits a three-run home run during the third inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez hits a three-run home run during the third inning against the Cardinals on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, at PNC Park.

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Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 10:04 p.m.
 

Don't tell the St. Louis Cardinals that Pedro Alvarez is an on-again, off-again hitter.

There's been no such thing as “off” for the Pirates' third baseman against the Cardinals this year, and he hurt them again Wednesday with a three-run home run in the third inning at PNC Park.

Combined with a shutdown performance by left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (9-13), the Pirates beat the Cardinals, 5-0, and took the season series from them for the first time since 2008.

Alvarez finished the season 23 for 58 (.396) with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 15 games against the Cardinals.

In a series that could have major implications in the National League wild-card race, the Pirates won back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 16-17. The win was just their fourth in the past 11 games and came in front of a crowd of 19,398.

Garrett Jones drove in the first run with an RBI double off Joe Kelly (4-6) in the first inning, and Alvarez hit his 26th home run of the season to make the score 4-0. All four runs scored with two outs, a situation in which the Pirates couldn't manufacture a run just a few days ago.

Alvarez doubled in the fifth and scored — again with two outs — on a run-scoring single by Josh Harrison.

The night before, Alvarez hit two home runs, including a 469-foot shot that was the longest by a Pirates player at PNC Park.

“They're a great team, and they demand your full concentration. Just going out there trying to compete. It's just one of those things,” Alvarez said of his dominance of the Cardinals this year.

Garrett Jones had a different take.

“He's a Cardinal killer, for sure,” Jones said. “It's fun to watch how far he can hit the ball, and he's getting big three-run home runs and go-ahead home runs. Whenever you can get a guy that can do that and put a team farther in the lead, it takes the pressure off the rest of the team.”

The Pirates didn't just beat the Cardinals but shut them down for the second game in a row. The team with the highest batting average in the NL scored its last run against the Pirates in the sixth inning of Monday night's series opener.

“I've told you all along we're not a perfect club,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We've got some holes. But the big picture, these guys believe they can win every night they take the field, and for us to respond the way we did, I'm proud of the effort. … The last two night's results are what we're looking for.”

Rodriguez accounted for six of Wednesday's scoreless innings, giving up three hits and three walks. He struck out three. The performance earned him his first win as a starter since joining the Pirates just prior to the trade deadline. He earned a win over St. Louis on Aug. 19, but it came in a two-inning relief appearance in a game that lasted 19 innings.

“It feels great,” Rodriguez said. “I come here to help this team, so when I win it feels good.”

Tony Watson, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.

The Pirates will have the day off Thursday before opening a weekend series in Milwaukee.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or kprice@tribweb.com.

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