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PIT@ARI: Walker's RBI single puts Bucs in front

PHOENIX -- Pedro Alvarez rewarded Clint Hurdle's patience, and the baseball gods rewarded Neil Walker's tolerance.

Stop us if you've heard this before. One-run game. Pirates win.

The Bucs edged the D-backs, 2-1, in a Wednesday matinee in Chase Field, squaring their record in one-run games at 4-4. That's eight one-run games out of a total of 12.

That's pennant-race prep school.

"When we started playing one-run games last year, there was more anxiety than now. Our nerves are way more calm," said Walker, whose broken-bat bloop single with two outs in the eighth snapped a 1-1 tie created the inning earlier by Alvarez's home run. "I know from a personal standpoint that there's a different feel in one-run games."

"One-run games heighten the focus for me. It's good playing those games early, because it lets guys know what kind of club they are," Hurdle said. "I love one-run games that we win."

The Bucs could be excused for assessing the game in terms of possible pennant-race preparation. After all, they are merely 5-7 after wrapping up a 3-6 Western swing.

However, not only are the Bucs returning to Pittsburgh with three wins in their last four games, they seized their first series win here since 2005 by winning consecutive games in which their starting pitchers totaled five innings.

When you do that, anything seems possible.

"If we keep doing what we've done the last few days, it's going to win us some ballgames. We've done a great job pitching, playing defense, getting timely hitting," said Alvarez, whose timing was the best.

Pittsburgh had already been turned back multiple times by Arizona right-hander Daniel Hudson when Alvarez yanked a solo homer with two outs in the eighth -- right on the cue Hurdle had given him as his count reached 2-0.

"I called it," Hurdle said of Alvarez's home run, a little sheepishly. "I was waiting for a hitter's count."

"He did? Then he should keep calling them," Alvarez said.

The go-ahead rally unfolded nearly as suddenly. Hudson recorded two quick outs before Clint Barmes -- moved way up to No. 2 in the lineup because of his limited but good history (2-for-3) against the right-hander -- singled sharply to right. Then Andrew McCutchen singled to center.

David Hernandez replaced Hudson and broke Walker's bat -- which nevertheless had already lifted the parachute that would land in front of right fielder Jason Kubel for a pop-gun winning hit by a guy who had been making a lot of .38-caliber outs.

After every one of his line drives had gone for naught, Walker offered reminders that "in baseball, things even out."

"A bit of retribution. A game-winner takes precedence over a lot of things," he said. "There's nothing better than ... Well, a lot of things are better, but when you break your bat and drive in a run to win a game, that is sweet retribution for a lot of balls that you hit hard and are caught."

Brad Lincoln, fresh from Triple-A Indianapolis, earned the victory in long relief of James McDonald. Chris Resop started the eighth, Tony Watson finished it, and Juan Cruz worked the ninth for his second save in 18 hours.

Before stepping in for Joel Hanrahan (tight right hamstring) on Tuesday night, Cruz had three career saves in 408 Major League games.

The Pirates were pretty much in Hudson's chokehold when Alvarez snapped them awake.

The defibrillator was the drive triggered by his swing at a 2-0 changeup, a line drive into the corner seats in right field. Until that wakeup call, Hudson had been working on a three-hit shutout.

"You don't want to walk a guy with two outs, and you try to guide a changeup up there, and he put a good swing on it," Hudson said of the blow.

It was the second homer, and the second hit, of the season for the most interesting man in baseball -- I don't always get hits, but when I do -- I hit a home run.

The home run did little for Alvarez's average (.074), but it did a lot for his teammates' mood and his confidence.

"That was a sight for sore eyes, although we were just looking for a run, we didn't care off whose bat," Hurdle said.

Hurdle could excuse a laboring McDonald after he needed 78 pitches to get through four innings because of fresh blood in the bullpen.

Lincoln, a dawn arrival to fill Jeff Karstens' spot on the roster, blanked the D-backs over the next three innings. Lincoln had to make half as many pitches (40) as McDonald for his three rounds.

"It was definitely a long night for me, but that's part of the job," Lincoln said. "I came in with my mind on battling to try to keep the team in the game. We know what's going on in the game, and when the phone rang, we came in and backed [McDonald] up. That's the way it's supposed to work." Comments