NEW YORK -- Pedro Alvarez's performance as a first baseman has been scrutinized, criticized and abridged -- manager Clint Hurdle removing him late in most games for defensive purposes. Friday night, Alvarez's play was acclaimed.
In short order, Alvarez prevented a Mets rally, then he prevented a throwing error by shortstop Jung Ho Kang. The net effect was keeping the game tied at 1 into the 10th, when the Bucs broke through for a 3-2 victory.
Most significantly, Alvarez's defensive heroics came in the eighth and ninth innings -- Friday's game being only the 33rd out of 87 starts that Alvarez was still on the field in the ninth.
"More often than not, if the game is tied, we keep him in," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, alluding to retaining the threat in that big bat.
Alvarez did get a pair of singles, neither of which figured in Pittsburgh's scoring. His glove was bigger, figuring in New York not scoring.
In the eighth, Yoenis Cespedes was running from first base with two outs when Daniel Murphy ripped a hard grounder to Alvarez's right. He smothered the ball with a dive, sprang up, and beat Murphy to the bag for the inning-ending out. The play was reminiscent of one he had almost made in St. Louis on Thursday, when after the diving stop he let the ball trickle out of the mitt as he moved toward the bag.
"To lay out with Cespedes running, that was an excellent play," Hurdle said. "You saw him lay out like that in St. Louis, just wasn't able to corral the ball when he went to the base. So that had to be a real feel-good for him."
Only Antonio Bastardo might have felt better. The lefty reliever, who had broken off the mound to cover the bag if needed, visibly rejoiced with Alvarez over the inning-ending play.
"As hard as that ball was hit, if it gets by, it probably goes down into the corner, and it's run," Bastardo said.
In the ninth, Kang threw wide to first on Wilmer Flores' one-out grounder to short. Alvarez clearly had to leave the bag to snare the ball and first-base umpire Bob Davidson, fixated on the players' feet, called Flores safe. The Pirates challenged the call, and replay review showed Alvarez swipe-tagging Flores as he sped by and before he landed on the base.
Anthony Recker followed with a single off Arquimedes Caminero that was harmless with two outs, but would have signaled serious trouble had Alvarez not kept Flores off base.
Hurdle applauded Alvarez's ability "to leave the bag as he did, and still find the ball and the glove with the runner going by."