Alvarez delivers 2 homers as Pirates pummel Brewers, 10-2
MILWAUKEE — Pedro Alvarez is taking to this whole first base experiment after all.
Alvarez had not homered in 42 days entering Saturday when he hit home runs in back-to-back innings to help the Pirates post a 10-2 win over the Brewers. It was Alvarez's second game at first base, where he has been moved because of his throwing woes.
With two outs and two on in the fourth inning and the Pirates trailing by a run, Alvarez launched a majestic shot off a 97 mph fastball from Wily Peralta over the left field wall for his first homer since July 11. Peralta had held the Pirates' hit-less until Russell Martin doubled before Alvarez's at-bat.
An inning later, after Martin's three-run homer, Alvarez was again able to elevate another 97 mph fastball from Peralta — one of the game's better ground-ball pitchers — over the opposite-field wall to give the Pirates a six-run lead. It was Alvarez's 17th homer of the season and his 10th career multi-homer game.
Alvarez initially resisted the idea of moving to first base and still views himself as a third baseman. But he looked comfortable at first base at Miller Park as the Pirates (67-62) have won three straight and trail the Brewers by four games in the NL Central.
“Any time you can do something like that … it's huge,” Alvarez said. “It feels good.”
Alvarez was asked if it was difficult for him to stay sharp, entering with just 66 at-bats since July 11.
“The at-bats that you do get every once in a while, you have to try and take advantage of them,” Alvarez said, “and just try to create that environment in your head where it feels like you are playing every day.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't have a clear-cut option at first base when making out his 101st different lineup card this season.
Left-handed first base options Alvarez (2 for 9) and Ike Davis (1 for 6) entered with limited at-bats against Peralta, and Davis has slightly superior numbers for his career against right-handed pitching.
Hurdle chose wisely.
Hurdle said before Saturday's game that he decided to go with Alvarez in part because he wanted “power against power.” Alvarez tied for the NL lead in homers last season, and Peralta's average fastball velocity, 95.4 mph, ranks fourth among major league starters.
Alvarez also has been an above-average hitter against fastballs, and Peralta leans heavily on his fastball.
Peralta allowed eight runs in five innings.
Hurdle mentioned Friday that Alvarez's bat can get “white hot” at times, and Hurdle wants to find a way to get that potential power in the lineup. Perhaps Alvarez is entering one of those periods and can resolve the first-base platoon.
“He got balls out over the plate and he got good swings on them,” Hurdle said. “He was short to the ball and rode them out well. ... We're happy for any player that breaks out.”
Alvarez also welcomed a start at Miller Park. Another thing hurting him this season, beyond his scatter-shot throwing arm that has resulted in 24 errors and necessitated the move across the infield, is his home park.
Alvarez agreed to adopt an opposite-field focus in an attempt to cut down on strikeouts and stay on pitches longer, but PNC Park has the largest left field in the game. PNC Park's deep left field robs Alvarez of extra-base hits.
His opposite-field approach is better suited to Miller Park, which has shallower fences and where the ball generally carries well. Both home runs Saturday likely would have left PNC Park.
The Pirates homered three times and racked up 12 hits against Brewers pitching Saturday. It was more than enough support for a Edinson Volquez, who like Jeff Locke on Friday was more lucky than good.
Volquez allowed 11 hits and walked two in 5 2⁄3 innings but allowed just two runs in earning his 11th win of the season.
Volquez nearly matched Peralta on the radar gun, and he used premium velocity to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. He jammed Ryan Braun with a bat-breaking 96 mph fastball for a popup to second, and Aramis Ramirez swung and missed at 95 mph heat. It was the last serious threat the Brewers mounted in the game.