CINCINNATI - Pedro Alvarez hasn't changed anything in June, except those RBI numbers. They're way up there, just like the Pirates.
Alvarez drove in all of Pittsburgh's runs with a solo homer, bases-loaded double and a single on Thursday for a 5-3 victory against the Cincinnati Reds and a split of their high-profile NL Central series.
The Pirates remain a half-game behind second-place Cincinnati after the four-game set, keeping them virtually shoulder-to-shoulder as they chase the torrid St. Louis Cardinals.
Pittsburgh’s Bryan Morris got a single in the seventh inning for his first career hit during Thursday’s game.
After blowing a one-run lead in the ninth and losing 2-1 in 13 innings on Wednesday night, Pittsburgh salvaged a game behind Alvarez and a bullpen running on fumes.
"We needed a big day from a number of people today and Pedro was one of them," manager Clint Hurdle said. "There was no bigger swing than with the bases loaded, left-on-left. Beautiful."
Alvarez had an RBI single and his 16th homer off Homer Bailey, who couldn't follow his no-hitter against Pittsburgh with a victory. After Alfredo Simon (5-3) loaded the bases in the seventh, Alvarez doubled off left-hander Tony Cingrani to snap a 2-all tie.
The five RBI were a season high for a Pirate and one shy of Alvarez's career high. The third baseman has been Pittsburgh's top run producer in June, leading the team with 48 RBIs overall.
It's quite a change. Alvarez .180 in April and .225 in May before finding his form. He has six homers in June, second-most in the NL.
"I just think it's repetition and getting the opportunity to go out and try to gain as much experience as I can from every day out there," Alvarez said.
Bryan Morris (4-2) contributed to the go-ahead rally with his first career single. He also pitched two innings, allowing one run. Left-hander Tony Watson pitched the last two innings for his second save in three chances.
The Pirates lead the season series 6-4, holding their own early in the season despite a rotation that's sapped by injuries and a lineup that strikes out a lot and wastes chances. Under the circumstances, the way the series ended was satisfying.
"We don't expect anything less," Morris said. "It's good to not lose any ground. Definitely would have loved to have three out of four in the series, but we're not complaining about the split, especially after the hard game last night."