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.

Donaldson ejected for kicking dirt on plate after home run

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Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson managed to get ejected while hitting a home run.

Donaldson barked at plate umpire Dan Bellino for the second time in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

With the score 2-2, Bellino called a strike when the 2015 AL MVP checked his swing on a 2-0 pitch from Reynaldo Lopez.

Manager Rocco Baldelli came out to speak with Bellino, and Donaldson homered down the left-field line on the next offering. After rounding the bases, Donaldson kicked dirt at home plate as he crossed it.

Bellino ejected him immediately, and Donaldson, realizing he had missed home plate, returned to the plate to touch it and then argued as he kicked more dirt on it.

Donaldson also had argued with Bellino on a 1-1 breaking ball in the first inning that appeared to be high but was called a strike, leading to a strikeout.

“We need Josh on the field, out there playing, and at third base,” Baldelli said. “That’s when we’re at our best. And so that’s really the end of it. I think we can move past it at his point, and go from here.”