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Alvarez's 3-run homer helps Pirates beat Rays 8-1

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 23, 2014 at 11:04 pm •  Published: June 23, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Pedro Alvarez's first homer in almost three weeks helped the Pittsburgh Pirates improve to .500 for just the second time in more than two months.

The slumping 2013 co-NL home run champion backed Edinson Volquez's pitching with a three-run shot, keying an 8-1 victory over the sputtering Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.

"It always helps, obviously, when I can contribute to a team victory," said Alvarez, who's hitting .232 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs.

"I've always said sometimes results aren't indicative of how you may feel at the plate, and I feel like I'm a good place," the slugger added. "I'm just going to continue to work."

Andrew McCutchen went 3 for 5, drove in two runs and stole two bases for the Pirates in a homecoming of sorts for last year's NL MVP, who grew up in nearby Fort Meade and had never played before at Tropicana Field. He also scored twice in Pittsburgh's first appearance in St. Petersburg since 2003.

Alvarez, who hadn't homered since June 3, went deep off Alex Cobb (2-6) during a four-run fourth inning that also featured the first of McCutchen's two RBI singles. The first-pitch, 419-foot drive over the wall in center field snapped a season-high 16-game stretch without a homer — Alvarez's longest since a 22-game drought that began in September 2012 and extended into last season.

"A lot of times people have been taking their chances with Pedro, and he's an important part of our offense," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need him to fire, we need him to drive in runs and that was very good to see. Three-run homers always play well."

Volquez (5-6) allowed five hits in a season-high eight innings.

James Loney drove in Tampa Bay's only run with a two-out, first-inning single, and the Pirates supported their starting pitcher by turning three double plays.

"I got a lot of help," Volquez said.

The Pirates climbed to .500 (38-38) for just the second time since April 17, when they were 8-8. They have won four of five following a three-game skid and are a NL-best 26-18 since May 6.

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