McDonald worked around eight hits and three walks, allowing two runs in six innings and the Pirates beat the New York Mets 3-2 on Saturday night.
"It was a big-time effort, with his want-to being better than his how-to," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was pitching out of the stretch all night. He was up in the zone a lot, too. But he got outs when he needed to."
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run double, and Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison each had two hits and a scored a run against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Garrett Jones had an RBI double among his two hits for Pittsburgh, which had lost its previous two.
McDonald (4-4) entered with a 1.09 ERA in the seven previous games he had won with Pittsburgh since being acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last July.
"Even when I got in good counts, they were able to get decent swings on the ball, but the defense was able to pick me up," McDonald said.
"It was outstanding defense. ... They made some great plays behind me, and that was really, really big for me today."
"The one thing that I really feel good about is that these guys have grasped the idea of pitch and play defense," Hurdle said. "Find ways to score on offense, but pitch and play defense. It makes for a good game."
Drawn partly by a postgame fireworks show and Huey Lewis concert, the Pirates drew 39,273, their fourth sellout of the season and third-largest crowd in PNC Park's 11-year history.
The runs that proved the difference came in the third on a two-out hit by McCutchen with Tabata at second and Harrison at first. McCutchen was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Dickey on May 31, and he grounded back to him into a double play in the first inning Saturday.
But his sharp grounder to third bounced and deflected off of David Murphy's glove. Murphy attempted to backhand the ball, and it slowly trickled into left, easily allowing Tabata and Harrison to score.
"That's an error -- no disrespect to Dan Murphy at all; he's a good player," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "A very good player. He'll make that play the next 10 times it's hit at him. Every time. No doubt in my mind."
Dickey (3-7) had his fifth consecutive effective outing, pitching a complete game. He allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in eight innings.
Mets slumping outfielder Jason Bay was back in the lineup against his former team after Collins gave him two days off to get away from the game and work on his swing.
Bay went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts. He singled to center in the fourth, his first hit in 25 at-bats. With a runner on and one out in the eighth, he hit a hard line drive to center -- right at McCutchen.
"I'm glad he's back," Collins said.
The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first when Tejada scored on Murphy fielder's choice.
Pittsburgh tied it in the second on Jones' double into the deepest part of the ballpark, left-center -- the Pirates' first extra-base hit in 21 innings.
The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the fourth but Dickey grounded softly in a double play.
"I wanted to score from there," Pagan said, "but right field is so short in this park that you have to hope for a bad bounce to have an opportunity to score on that ball. (Jones) fielded it cleanly and I didn't have a chance."
A fan favorite here but a member of teams that all finished last or next-to-last, Bay received mostly cheers -- but some boos -- during his first plate appearance at PNC Park since being traded in 2008. ... Reyes, who turned 28 Saturday, leads the majors in hits.