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.

Jorge Soler hits Royals’ first home run in nearly two weeks

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The 16-31, last place Royals had a power outage lasting nearly two weeks. Entering Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals, Jorge Soler had hit the club’s most recent home run, a solo shot off of the Phillies’ Jake Arrieta in the sixth inning on May 10. That time frame spanned eight games.

Soler ended the home run drought, hitting a three-run round-tripper off of Michael Wacha to cap off a six-run third inning in the first game of the twin billing, staking the Royals to a 7-0 lead.

Soler, 27, is now batting .249/.303/.497 with 11 homers, 30 RBI, and 22 runs scored in 198 plate appearances on the season. He’s the only member of the Royals currently in double-digits in homers, though Hunter Dozier (nine) and Alex Gordon (eight) should soon join him.