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Turns out, the third baseman's feet -- not to mention his glove -- work too.
Alvarez scored on an unconventional slide in the second inning for the game's only run and turned in a couple of defensive gems to help the Pirates to a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
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"I try to be ready every time on defense and anticipate the ball being hit to me," Alvarez said. "Like I've said before, I take a lot of pride in my defense."
A.J. Burnett and four relievers sent the listless Cubs to their 10th straight loss by surviving on a night the Pirates allowed 10 hits and ran into trouble in just about every inning.
Burnett (3-2) gave up six hits, struck out six and walked two over 5 1/3 innings and the National League's best bullpen made it stand up as Pittsburgh extended Chicago starter Ryan Dempster's misery. Joel Hanrahan worked out of a two-on, one out jam in the ninth for his 11th save.
Dempster (0-3) remains winless since last August, surrendering one run and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking one while dropping his ERA to 2.14.
Still, it wasn't enough to keep the Cubs from posting their first 10-game losing streak since dropping the first 14 games of the 1997 season.
Chicago left 11 runners on base and went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Pittsburgh wasn't much better but only needed Rod Barajas' RBI-single that scored Alvarez to beat the floundering Cubs.
"It's unbelievable," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "We out-hit the opponent every night and can't score. We can't seem to get that hit with men in scoring position."
The Cubs started the season 13-11 but have sunk to the bottom of the NL Central thanks to an offense that has stopped producing. They have scored just four runs in their last 56 innings.
"I'm a little lost for words now," Sveum said. "It's kind of the same thing. But guys are battling, having decent, good at-bats - just not finalizing it, really. A lot of good at-bats, just not getting it done."
Chicago had plenty of chances, putting at least one runner in scoring position in all but two innings, but Burnett relied on his slider and his defense to wiggle free on a night where he labored to get through Chicago's struggling lineup.
Burnett needed 105 pitches to get 16 outs and took advantage of some nifty glovework by Alvarez, who saved at least one run in the fifth by making a diving stab of a sharp grounder by Joe Mather then firing to first to end the inning as the Cubs came up empty with runners on second and third.
"The defense was big," Burnett said. "They saved a couple of them and I was able to find my hook for a batter or two."
Chicago threatened again an inning later only to run itself out of a two-on, one-out situation when Alfonso Soriano crashed into Alvarez trying to move from second to third on a groundball by Darwin Barney. Soriano was called out due to runners' interference and reliever Jared Hughes got Koyle Hill to ground meekly to second to end the threat.
The Cubs ran out of chances once the Pirates got to their bullpen, which leads the National League in ERA. Jason Grilli struck out the side in the seventh, Juan Cruz picked off Chicago's Tony Campana at second base to cut short a rally in the eighth before Hanrahan took over in the ninth.
"Runners on the corners, you're thinking `How you going to get out of it?"' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "[Hanrahan] showed you how to get out, you get ahead and throw strikes."
The loss was more of the same for Dempster, who hasn't won in a stretch of 17 starts. He's been among the best pitchers in the NL this season, but has been undone by a lack of run support.
The Cubs have scored just 16 runs in Dempster's eight starts this season.
"It's hard for us -- 10 games in a row is not a lot of fun," Dempster said. "It doesn't make coming to the ballpark fun, it doesn't make going out there and playing fun. We've just got to fight through it."
|The Pirates' A.J. Burnett combines with four relievers to shut out the Cubs. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
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|David DeJesus, RF||4||0||1||0||1||2||2||.281|
|Starlin Castro, SS||5||0||2||0||0||2||2||.315|
|Joe Mather, CF-LF||4||0||2||0||0||1||3||.293|
|Bryan LaHair, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||2||4||.301|
|Alfonso Soriano, LF||4||0||2||0||0||2||2||.263|
|Tony Campana, PR-CF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.302|
|Adrian Cardenas, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||.130|
|Darwin Barney, 2B||4||0||2||0||0||1||2||.265|
|Koyie Hill, C||4||0||0||0||0||0||4||.200|
|Ryan Dempster, P||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.000|
|James Russell, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Reed Johnson, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.258|
|a-singled for Russell in the 9th|
|SB - Starlin Castro (13, 2nd base off Burnett/Barajas), Tony Campana (13, 2nd base off Cruz/Barajas), Darwin Barney (2, 2nd base off Burnett/Barajas)|
|PK - Joe Mather (1, Cruz)|
|Team LOB - 11|
|E - Adrian Cardenas 2 (2, Throwing)|
|Ryan Dempster (L,0-3)||7.1||7||1||1||1||6||0||2.14|
|Pitches-Strikes - Ryan Dempster 106-75, James Russell 3-3|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ryan Dempster 8-10, James Russell 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Ryan Dempster 32, James Russell 2|
|Jose Tabata, LF-RF||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||.216|
|Josh Harrison, RF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.273|
|Gorkys Hernandez, LF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Andrew McCutchen, CF||3||0||0||0||1||2||1||.331|
|Pedro Alvarez, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||2||3||.205|
|Neil Walker, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.253|
|Matt Hague, 1B||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.167|
|Jason Grilli, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Juan Cruz, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Garrett Jones, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.216|
|Joel Hanrahan, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Rod Barajas, C||4||0||2||1||0||0||2||.223|
|Clint Barmes, SS||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.182|
|A.J. Burnett, P||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||.000|
|Jared Hughes, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Casey McGehee, PH-1B||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.184|
|a-grounded out for Cruz in the 8th|
|b-grounded out for Hughes in the 6th|
|2B - Neil Walker (7, Dempster)|
|RBI - Rod Barajas (8)|
|2-OUT RBI - Rod Barajas (6)|
|SB - Josh Harrison 2 (2, 2nd base off Dempster/Hill, 2nd base off Dempster/Hill)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|A.J. Burnett (W,3-2)||5.1||6||0||0||2||6||0||4.19|
|Jared Hughes (H,4)||0.2||0||0||0||0||0||0||1.16|
|Jason Grilli (H,11)||1||0||0||0||0||3||0||2.00|
|Juan Cruz (H,8)||1||2||0||0||0||1||0||1.02|
|Joel Hanrahan (S,11)||1||2||0||0||0||2||0||2.70|
|Pitches-Strikes - A.J. Burnett 98-61, Jared Hughes 3-1, Jason Grilli 12-10, Juan Cruz 16-12, Joel Hanrahan 18-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - A.J. Burnett 9-1, Jared Hughes 2-0, Juan Cruz 1-0, Joel Hanrahan 1-0|
|Batters Faced - A.J. Burnett 24, Jared Hughes 2, Jason Grilli 3, Juan Cruz 4, Joel Hanrahan 5|
|Attendance - 29914|
|Game Time - 3:04|
|Temperature - 86|
|Umpires - Home - Hunter Wendelstedt, First Base - Dan Bellino, Second Base - Jerry Layne, Third Base - Bob Davidson|