Pedro Alvarez going for the NL home run crown in Pirates’ meaningless regular season finale

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The Pirates (93-68) cannot move up or down from their current position as the host of the National League Wild Card Game, so Sunday afternoon’s regular season finale at the Reds’ Great American Ball Park is essentially meaningless and most of Pittsburgh’s regulars are getting the day off.

But not all of them will be on the massage tables.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday morning that Pedro Alvarez is starting at third base and batting cleanup so that he can have a shot at the National League home run title. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is currently tied with Alvarez at 36 homers and Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is the next-closest to those two with 30.

The rest of the Bucs’ starting lineup for Game 162, courtesy of MLB.com’s Tom Singer:

Clayton Kershaw struggles with control, walks six Marlins

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.

Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.

The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.