Pedro Alvarez’s eighth-inning RBI single helps Pirates take 2-1 lead in NLDS

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Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez finished the 2013 regular season with a .180/.252/.286 line against left-handed pitching. Not exactly his cup of tea. But he came through in a big spot against lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist, delivering a tie-breaking RBI single to right, putting the Pirates up 4-3 in the eighth inning. Siegrist, by the way, finished the regular season with a 0.45 ERA in 39.2 innings.

The Cardinals made Game 3 of the NLDS a seesaw affair. After the Pirates went up 2-0 in the first inning on a two-run single by Marlon Byrd, post-season legend Carlos Beltran delivered a two-run single of his own in the fifth. The Pirates went ahead in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Russell Martin. But the Cardinals tied it right back up in the top of the eighth when Carlos Beltran blasted a solo home run to right-center off of Mark Melancon, leaving the score at three apiece.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to right-handed reliever Carlos Martinez to start the bottom of the eighth. Andrew McCutchen led off with a double down the left field line, putting the Pirates in great position to take the lead, but he made a base running error when Justin Morneau hit a sharp grounder to the left side. Shortstop Pete Kozma had him dead to rights, making an easy throw to third for the tag. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle brought in Josh Harrison to pinch-run for Justin Morneau. Marlon Byrd drew a walk to put runners on first and second with out out. With Alvarez due up, Matheny — smartly — went to Siegrist, knowing the numbers were overwhelmingly in his favor.

The post-season famously a small sample size affair and Alvarez showed the magic of it when he came through against Siegrist with an RBI single. Russell Martin followed up with a line drive RBI single to left. Closer Jason Grilli came on in the ninth inning, working around a lead-off single by Matt Adams to nail down the save.

The Pirates will look to advance to the NLCS with a victory tomorrow in Game 4 against the Cardinals. Cardinals starter Michael Wacha will oppose Pirates starter Charlie Morton.

Carlos Carrasco pitches during game action

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Indians starter Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this summer. He’d been out since June. Despite that diagnosis, he and the Indians insisted that he would make every effort to come back this year. Yesterday he took a big step in that direction, making his first rehab appearance at Double-A Akron.

He only tossed one inning, walking one batter and striking out another. He thew 16 pitches but cranked it up to 97 with his first offering. Not too shabby.

It’s unclear what the timetable is for him returning to Cleveland. If they intend to use him as a starter again he’ll obviously need several more appearances to get stretched out. If he’s to be used as a reliever, fewer obviously. What his stamina level is and will be is also an open question.

However that gets sorted out, it’s good so have him back in action.