PITTSBURGH -- Yes, Pedro Alvarez, this really is the majors. Even if nothing surrounding the rebuilding-again Pittsburgh Pirates these days looks like a major league product.
White Sox starter John Danks held down Alvarez and the Pirates by limiting them to four hits over eight innings, and Pittsburgh committed six errors during Chicago's 7-2 victory Wednesday night.The Pirates ran their losing streak to 10 in the major league debut of Alvarez, their top power prospect since Barry Bonds. Alvarez contributed one of the Pirates' four ninth-inning errors, mishandling a throw at third base.
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It was only the 15th game in club history with as many as six errors. The Pirates' record is seven, which occurred four times, according to Stats LLC."We embarrassed ourselves a little there at the end," Pirates manager John Russell said.The White Sox looked sharp again while winning their sixth in seven games. The left-handed Danks was in control throughout, and Carlos Quentin drove in two runs with a single and double. Paul Konerko had three hits and drove in a run.Before Chicago's road trip began, general manager Kenny Williams stressed the importance of winning both interleague series this week against NL tailenders Pittsburgh and Washington. The White Sox are assured of taking the three-game Pirates series after winning the first two games."I think we were bound to have a good run at some point," Konerko said. "We were bad for a long time to start this season, and now we're starting to put some runners on consistently. And the pitching is starting to smooth out."The Pirates are enduring their third double-digit losing streak in 42 years. The 2006 Pirates lost 13 in a row under manager Jim Tracy, and Russell's first team in 2008 dropped 10 in a row."I don't know how to explain it," said Pirates rookie Jose Tabata, who hit his first major league homer in his sixth career game.Alvarez, the No. 2 pick in the June 2008 draft, impressed the White Sox by hitting several long home runs during batting practice, causing several players to interrupt their pregame stretch and let out some audible "oohs" during one deep drive. Once the game started, Danks (6-5) kept Alvarez in the park, much to manager Ozzie Guillen's relief."That's a lot of pressure to put on this kid like he's the savior," Guillen said. "I think when you see this kid, the first three at-bats he got were good at-bats. That's all you can ask."Danks struck out Alvarez swinging on a high fastball in the second, then worked carefully before walking him in the fifth. Alvarez then scored on Lastings Milledge's double. The left-handed-hitting Alvarez got around on a pitch by the left-handed Danks in the seventh, driving it to the warning track in left before Juan Pierre ran it down."I was a [little] nervous, but I thought I had some good at-bats. ... I was able to slow the game down for myself," said Alvarez, who had 13 homers and 53 RBIs in less than a half-season at Triple-A Indianapolis.So far, Pittsburgh hasn't caught Alvarez-mania the way Washington is embracing rookie Stephen Strasburg, who, coincidentally, faces the White Sox on Friday. The crowd of 15,218 was only slightly larger than Tuesday night's turnout of 12,693 despite gorgeous weather and a day's worth of buildup.Danks wasn't as dominating as he was in limiting Detroit to one hit in seven shutout innings during a 3-0 victory on June 10, but he was in control throughout while striking out six and walking two. Danks has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of 13 starts."This is the way we envisioned ourselves pitching all year," Danks said. "Who knows? Hopefully, this is the roll that gets us back on track."As usual, one bad inning did in Pirates starter Zach Duke (3-8), who has lost four in a row while winning only once in his past 12 starts. The first five White Sox batters reached base in the fourth, with Alexei Ramirez tripling after Pierre's leadoff single. Alex Rios and Quentin followed with run-scoring singles.Rios and Quentin doubled around Konerko's single during a two-run sixth.
Pirates starters have won once in 26 games since Duke beat Phillies ace Roy Halladay 2-1 on May 18. ... The Pirates have lost 16 of 19. ... Pirates RHP Ross Ohlendorf, who starts Thursday, is winless in 13 starts since Aug. 18. ... The White Sox are 6-2 in interleague play, while the Pirates are 0-5. Chicago is 30-14 against the NL since 2008. ... White Sox RHP Jake Peavy will miss his scheduled start Thursday thanks to shoulder soreness, with Mark Buehrle replacing him.