With rotation spot on the line, James McDonald beats Cardinals

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James McDonald entered Friday’s outing needing some sort of turnaround to save his rotation spot after a disastrous six-start run. He did that and more, shutting out the Cardinals for six innings and striking out seven in the Pirates’ 2-1 victory.

McDonald, an All-Star snub after going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in the first half, entered Friday’s game with a 1-2 record, an 8.71 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP in six starts since the All-Star break. Last time out, he gave up seven runs to a Padres offense that ranks among the game’s worst.

McDonald had no such problems with the Cardinals, though, allowing just two hits in his six innings. He had thrown just 87 pitches when he was removed, but his spot was due up in the bottom of the sixth and the Pirates definitely wanted to end his night on a high note after his recent struggles.

The Pirates won the game without ever driving in a run. Both of their runs scored in the fourth, the first on a wild pitch from Jake Westbrook and the second on a passed ball.

With the victory, the Pirates moved to 66-53, putting them two games ahead of the Cardinals for second place in the NL Central. If the postseason started today, they’d be the second wild card.

Attempting to complete cycle, Robinson Chirinos thrown out to end game

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With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.

Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.

The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.

Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.