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Pirates tee off on Cubs for sweep

| Sunday, May 27, 2012, 5:00 p.m.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker completes the fourth inning double play over the Cubs' Joe Mather at PNC Park May 27, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Fans celebrate as the Pirates complete a three-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates third base coach Nick Leyva celebrates with Pedro Alvarez after the third baseman hit a three-run home run in the first inning against the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates right fielder Garett Jones makes a running catch on a ball hit by the Cubs' Starlin Castro in the third inning Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Pirates celebrate Pedro Alvarez's first-inning, three-run home run against the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Pirates celebrate Garrett Jones' two-run home run against the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates starting pitcher Erik Bedard throws against the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates starting pitcher Erik Bedard throws against the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates cleanup hitter Pedro Alvarez hits a three run home run against the Cubs in the first inning at PNC Park May 27, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
Neil Walker celebrates with Pedro Alvarez after Alvarez hit a three-run home run in the first inning against the Cubs on Sunday, May 27, 2012, at PNC Park. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

It took 47 games for the Pirates to hit their first three-run homer, and it led to an avalanche of runs.

Pedro Alvarez's towering shot in the first inning Sunday was the first of three homers by the Pirates, who trampled the hapless Chicago Cubs, 10-4, at PNC Park.

Andrew McCutchen hit a solo homer in the fifth, and Garrett Jones added a two-run shot in the sixth. The Pirates are 17-8 when they hit at least one home run and 8-2 when they launch two or more.

“We threw some power out there today,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It would be good to see us get a little more consistent with it.”

Alvarez's blast broke a string of 58 games by the Pirates without a three-run homer. The most recent to do it had been pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, who went deep Sept. 15, 2011, against Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Dana Eveland.

To uncover the previous three-run homer by a Pirates position player, reach back to Sept. 7, 2011, when McCutchen hit one against Houston. Overall, they hit just 13 three-run shots last season.

This year, the Pirates are on pace to finish with three three-run homers. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals and A.J. Ellis of the Dodgers entered yesterday with two apiece.

“I was well aware of the fact we didn't have one until today,” Hurdle said. “Hopefully, they'll come in bunches. They make the offensive game pick up dramatically. Maybe this game will loosen them up.”

The Pirates completed their first series sweep this year and their first three-game sweep at PNC Park since Sept. 17-19, 2010, against Arizona. The Cubs have lost 12 in a row, their longest skid since dropping 14 in a row to open the 1997 season.

Left-hander Erik Bedard (3-5) worked six innings and allowed two hits. He won for the first time in four starts since May 3.

The Pirates did the bulk of their damage against righty Matt Garza (2-3), who allowed six runs (five earned) and seven hits in five innings.

Jose Tabata began the first inning with a single to center. Josh Harrison laid down a sacrifice bunt and wound up on second base when Garza's errant throw sailed up the line into foul territory.

McCutchen ripped a grounder to third baseman Joe Mather. Tabata broke on contact and was an easy out at home; Harrison held at second.

That brought up Alvarez, who went into the game on a 9-for-62 (.145) slide in his previous 18 games. Garza fell behind, 3-1, and tried to sneak in a changeup. The ball flew over the Clemente Wall and landed about a half-dozen rows up in the right field seats.

“I was just ready to hit,” Alvarez said. “I was not sitting on a pitch.”

In the sixth, Gorkys Hernandez had a two-run single — his first hit and RBI in the majors. He had replaced Tabata, who left with cramping in his left leg.

“He threw me a fastball, and I missed it,” Hernandez said. “He threw me another one, right down the middle, and I got it.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7811 or rbiertempfel@tribweb.com.

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