|Pittsburgh (36-32) «||1||3||0||0||0||2||3||0||x||9||12||1|
He's been doing that all season.
The fact he finished the game? That was a first.
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McDonald (6-3) continued his breakthrough season by allowing one run, six hits and no walks with five strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 2.19. He has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his 14 starts this season.
"He was lights-out today," said Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who homered. "He's been pretty good all year, but when his breaking pitch is working the way it was today for strikes and for chase, and he's locating his fastball the way he was, he's one of the best out there. And today's performance is as good a performance as you'll have from any pitcher."
McDonald was 18-20 in 95 career starts heading into this season and is now among the NL leaders in ERA. He credited the additions of two veterans -- pitcher A.J. Burnett and catcher Rod Barajas -- to the Pittsburgh clubhouse this season for helping him finally harness his long-tantalizing potential.
It was after his most recent start -- one in which he allowed one run but lasted only six innings -- that Barajas sat him down.
"He told me I need to be that guy who wants seven to nine innings every night out," McDonald said. "Tonight after the seventh, that just went through my brain the whole time, and I really wanted that.
"I could see he really wanted me to finish the game, all my teammates wanted me to finish the game - and I finally believed in myself I could finish the game."
It was the Pirates' first complete game this season.
Jones had an RBI single in the first inning and a two-run homer that made it 8-1 in the seventh. Alvarez added a shot that traveled an estimated 435 feet to right-center two batters later. Barajas had a two-run homer in the sixth.
Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen came up a home run short of the cycle, scoring two runs and driving in three.
The surging Pirates have won seven of their past eight series and four consecutive series at home. They moved within two games of first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central.
Justin Morneau had two hits for the Twins, who have lost six of eight.
Winners of 10 of its past 12 at home, Pittsburgh rebounded from a loss Wednesday by pounding out 12 hits. Jones, Alvarez and Alex Presley all had two.
"I feel prepared; I'm throwing well in warmups then I get out to the game and something changes," Hendriks said. "I give up a couple of runs before I get in that groove and get my aggressiveness going."
An inning later, McCutchen came up with the bases loaded and two outs and hit a similar hard, deep liner. This time, he pulled it to left for a three-run double.
Barajas snapped an 0-for-13 slump with his seventh homer that followed Alvarez's leadoff single in the sixth.
That prompted Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire to lift Hendriks (0-4), who remained winless in 10 career starts. Hendriks was charged with six runs -- three earned -- and eight hits. He did not walk a batter and had three strikeouts.
"As the story goes," Gardenhire said, "if you don't pitch, you get whacked."
"I know we didn't make a play behind him there but there were rockets flying everywhere," Gardenhire added.
Jones, a former Twin, homered for the first time since June 3 after McCutchen singled to lead off the seventh. Alvarez's homer was his fifth in his past five games and team-high 13th this season.
But that was the only time they could get to McDonald.
"Just from last year to this year, it's almost like night and day," Jones said of McDonald. "He's learned to harness his stuff and trust his stuff -- and he's got great stuff. .. It's impressive to watch the way he's going after hitters and being aggressive and being confident."
|James McDonald strikes out five and goes the distance for the first time in his career. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Denard Span, CF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.284|
|Ben Revere, RF||4||0||0||0||0||0||2||.301|
|Josh Willingham, LF||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.277|
|Darin Mastroianni, LF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.205|
|Justin Morneau, 1B||3||0||2||0||0||0||1||.241|
|Chris Parmelee, 1B||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.179|
|Trevor Plouffe, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||0||3||.252|
|Ryan Doumit, C||4||0||1||1||0||0||2||.253|
|Brian Dozier, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||.238|
|Alexi Casilla, 2B||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.247|
|Jeff Manship, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jeff Gray, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Liam Hendriks, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.000|
|Alex Burnett, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Jamey Carroll, 2B||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.259|
|2B - Justin Morneau (12, McDonald), Trevor Plouffe (8, McDonald)|
|RBI - Ryan Doumit (31)|
|2-OUT RBI - Ryan Doumit (16)|
|SB - Justin Morneau (1, 2nd base off McDonald/Barajas)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|E - Brian Dozier (9, Misplayed grounder)|
|Liam Hendriks (L,0-4)||5||8||6||3||0||3||1||7.39|
|HBP - Barajas (by Liam Hendriks)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Liam Hendriks 94-59, Alex Burnett 17-12, Jeff Manship 21-14, Jeff Gray 8-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Liam Hendriks 7-6, Alex Burnett 1-1, Jeff Manship 2-0, Jeff Gray 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Liam Hendriks 25, Alex Burnett 4, Jeff Manship 6, Jeff Gray 3|
|Alex Presley, LF||5||1||2||0||0||0||0||.228|
|Neil Walker, 2B||5||1||0||0||0||0||1||.258|
|Andrew McCutchen, CF||4||2||3||3||0||1||0||.339|
|Garrett Jones, RF||4||1||2||3||0||0||1||.258|
|Jose Tabata, RF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.225|
|Casey McGehee, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.242|
|Pedro Alvarez, 3B||4||2||2||1||0||1||2||.218|
|Rod Barajas, C||3||1||1||2||0||1||0||.220|
|Josh Harrison, SS||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.248|
|James McDonald, P||4||1||0||0||0||1||1||.107|
|2B - Andrew McCutchen (13, Hendriks)|
|3B - Andrew McCutchen (4, Hendriks)|
|HR - Garrett Jones (8, Manship), Pedro Alvarez (13, Manship), Rod Barajas (7, Hendriks)|
|RBI - Andrew McCutchen 3 (42), Garrett Jones 3 (25), Pedro Alvarez (35), Rod Barajas 2 (18)|
|2-OUT RBI - Andrew McCutchen 3 (18), Garrett Jones (11)|
|SB - Alex Presley (7, 2nd base off Burnett/Doumit)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Harrison-Walker-McGehee|
|E - Josh Harrison (2, Misplayed grounder)|
|James McDonald (W,6-3)||9||6||1||1||0||5||0||2.19|
|HBP - Willingham (by James McDonald)|
|Pitches-Strikes - James McDonald 115-74|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - James McDonald 9-12|
|Batters Faced - James McDonald 33|
|Attendance - 21563|
|Game Time - 2:29|
|Temperature - 90|
|Umpires - Home - Sam Holbrook, First Base - Mike Estabrook, Second Base - Rob Drake, Third Base - Joe West|