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PIT@SD: McDonald fans five en route to the win

SAN DIEGO -- Ironic it was that manager Clint Hurdle told his team before Monday's game to focus on the outfield grass, and not the beyond-the-walls flags. That was Hurdle's attempt to try to minimize the effect that spacious, pitcher-friendly PETCO Park can have on the minds of hitters.

Turns out, the ballpark imposed no such intimidation factor, nor did the Pirates opt to take advantage of all that outfield territory. Rather, the Bucs won a game at PETCO Park the unconventional way by riding two early home runs and then maneuvering through trouble late to seal a 4-3 win over the Padres.

"We didn't see a whole lot of grass," Hurdle joked afterward. "I think we shot more balls in the dugout than we did out in the field for hits."

This wasn't about style points, though, and the Pirates were more than pleased to open yet another road series with a win. Of the six road series Pittsburgh has played so far, five have begun with a victory.

For the seventh consecutive game, the Pirates got on the scoreboard first. They made a splash, too, by plating four first-inning runs in a four-batter span. All came via two swings, as Garrett Jones and Chris Snyder each deposited Aaron Harang fastballs into opposite corners of the outfield stands.

Jones followed a single by Xavier Paul with his team-high sixth homer, which landed just inside the right-field foul pole.

"The [home run] to Jones I felt was a good pitch," Harang said. "He just did a good job getting to that ball."

Five of Jones' homers and 11 of his 12 RBIs have come in his past 15 games, and he continues to have all of his success on the road, too. Of Jones' 21 hits, 18 have come away from PNC Park.

"Just seeing the ball well," he said. "[I'm] just trying to stay relaxed and stay through the middle of the field."

Neil Walker followed Jones' blast with a single, setting the stage for Snyder to homer with two out. The home run, which landed in the left-field stands, was Snyder's first since October. He has found plenty of ways to contribute in the interim, though.

Not including Paul, who joined the team just days ago, Snyder leads the club with a .317 season average. He has reached base safely in every game he's started.

"I didn't envision hitting him sixth at the start of Spring Training, but it sets our lineup up," Hurdle said. "He's holding his own right now. He's driving in some runs. He's been a welcome addition on the offensive side of the ball."

Harang, who entered the night 13-5 in 22 career starts against the Pirates, allowed only one hit in his final four innings. Pirates starter James McDonald -- with Jones' help in right field -- ensured that the Pirates' inability to pad their lead made no difference.

McDonald extended his scoreless-innings streak to 11 as he eased through the first five innings. A two-run blast by Jorge Cantu in the sixth was really all that marred the outing, which ended after that frame. McDonald threw 57 of his 89 pitches for strikes, struck out five and walked just one.

He plan going in was to make the dimensions of the ballpark work in his favor.

"You can go at guys with fastballs," McDonald said. "I can really attack guys with fastballs. It allows you to be more aggressive, but I feel like I still have to pitch my game in any ballpark I'm in."

The start was an extension of McDonald's last one, and a further sign that the right-hander is past the mental and mechanical issues that were causing him so much trouble in April.

"I feel like I'm getting there," he said. "I still have a lot of work to do."

McDonald benefited big-time from a key fifth-inning double play. With Brad Hawpe standing on third and one out, Jones camped under a fly ball to right and made the throw home as Hawpe attempted to score.

Snyder, who had backed up behind the foul line to ensure he got a true hop, caught the feed and lunged at Hawpe in time to get the inning-ending out.

"That was an unbelievable throw," Snyder said. "That was probably the biggest play of the game by far. That was huge."

"It feels good to be able to do that on defense," added Jones, who also made a nice sliding catch.

The run-saving throw turned out to be critical, since the Pirates' bullpen allowed things to get interesting late. After another scoreless appearance from Jose Veras, Chris Resop labored through a 30-pitch eighth.

He gave up a two-out RBI single to Ryan Ludwick that brought the Padres within one and then walked the potential go-ahead run. Hurdle, who had Daniel McCutchen warming up in the bullpen, opted to stay with Resop, who ended the threat with a groundout.

Joel Hanrahan allowed consecutive two-out singles in the ninth before getting out of his own mess for save No. 9 in as many chances this year.

"They're not going to throw zeroes all year long," said Hurdle, whose 'pen came into the day with the lowest ERA in baseball. "They stayed the course. A save is a save."

Not only did the work of the bullpen salvage another win for McDonald, but it also boosted Pittsburgh to back-to-back victories for the first time since April 17-18. The team has now won 10 road games, tied for the most in the Major Leagues. Comments