There’s a sound that comes off Pedro Alvarez’s bat when the Pirates 3rd baseman is feeling it that can send a jolt through a stadium and a franchise making an attempt to escape 20 years of losing.
It’s not so much a ”crack’ ‘ as it is an explosion, a blast of fury in which the 25-year-old former 1st-round pick makes sending pitches to the distant part of ballparks look almost effortless.
It’s the kind of power that will carry a team, the kind the Pittsburgh Pirates have hopelessly required while fighting for their first postseason berth in 20 years.
Alvarez drilled 3 homers and drove in 7 runs in a spectacular 27-hour stretch as the Pittsburgh Pirates posted two shutout wins over St. Louis to end a dangerous freefall and pull back within a game of the Cardinals for the National League’s final wild card spot.
”Every once awhile when he shows up like that he’s the big kid on the playground,” Hurdle said.
One the Pirates need to be a bully over the past 5 weeks of the season if they would like to make the playoffs for the 1st time since 1992. While MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen has cooled down in August, Alvarez and Garrett Jones have provided the middle of the lineup with some needed thump.
Alvarez is hitting .280 during the season’s 2nd half and has already smashed a career-high 26 home runs. While he remains streaky – Alvarez is 4th in the National League in home runs per at bats but has also endured a couple of 20-game homerless droughts – when he’s hot he’s one of the toughest outs in the game.
It is a lesson St. Louis pitcher Joe Kelly learned. He tried to sneak an 82 mph curveball past Alvarez in the 3rd inning, and Alvarez turned on it and sent a shot to the right field seats so quickly his bat had barely hit the ground when the ball landed 400 feet away.
”He’s the kind of player that you just can’t pattern,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny expounded. ”Joe threw a breaking ball and most fellows are sitting dead red in that situation. He’s hit some good off-speed pitches against us. It isn’t like we’re simply tossing the ball up there.” Vegas odds
Alvarez hasn’t got an explanation for why he torched the Cardinals this season, hitting .398 with 7 homers and 23 RBIs in 15 games against the defending world champs. He isn’t actually concerned about finding one either.
”The thing about comfort is that you don’t really think much when you’re up there and you’re feeling comfortable,” Alvarez asserted. ”When comfort and confidence go side-by-side, it does lots for you.”
Now he’s helping lead a charge for a team that insists it isn’t fading shortly.
”These fellows like to play,” Hurdle said. ”They love the challenges in front of them. We aren’t trying to be slaves to the history that is here. We’re trying to create new history.”