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Avila comes alive as D-backs beat Pirates

Catcher shrugs off slump, goes deep early in victory
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PITTSBURGH -- D-backs catcher Alex Avila has been working towards a night like Thursday for a long time now.

Avila collected a pair of hits, including a two-run homer, as the D-backs scored eight runs in the first three innings and cruised to a 9-3 win over the Pirates on Thursday night at PNC Park.

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PITTSBURGH -- D-backs catcher Alex Avila has been working towards a night like Thursday for a long time now.

Avila collected a pair of hits, including a two-run homer, as the D-backs scored eight runs in the first three innings and cruised to a 9-3 win over the Pirates on Thursday night at PNC Park.

View Full Game Coverage

Signed to a two-year contract during the offseason, Avila was hitting .108 after a first-inning strikeout on Thursday before finally breaking out with a two-run homer in the third, a walk in the fourth and an RBI double in the ninth.

"Imagine being on display for the rest of the world to see that you're not doing your job and you just start to add into it yourself," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of the pressure on Avila. "So when you have a day like this, you probably get a good night's rest, you know that the results were there for all the work you're putting in, and it's usually a good sign of things to come.

"I know that he was waiting for something like this to happen. It didn't happen automatically. He deserved this."

Video: ARI@PIT: Avila plates Marte with an RBI double

The biggest challenge for Avila during the struggles was finding a way to come to the ballpark every day in a positive frame of mind, to convince himself that this would be the day that the extra work with D-backs hitting coaches Dave Magadan and Tim Laker would finally pay off.

"It's definitely not easy," Avila said. "Physically, it's about as hard to hit as ever in this game. That definitely takes a toll mentally. But not so much that you don't believe in what you're capable of, but just the 'when is it going to end?' Because you know it's going to end at some point. It's just like, when is it going to?"

As Avila's struggles intensified, so did the chatter from fans and on talk radio that the D-backs should get rid of him, or at least play him sparingly.

Lovullo, though, refused to let any of that influence his thinking. His patience was rewarded Thursday.

"For me, it was still early in the season," Lovullo said. "He's been a proven hitter before. He's done it before. I knew that he was relaxed enough to believe that he could still do it.

"[Then] you throw in the defensive component of it. He controls the game from behind the plate. He was a pitching coach right in between innings. He's done that countless amounts of time, so there is a lot of value to him catching without having the hitting results. When you combine the two, it's very powerful, and we were waiting for that."

Video: ARI@PIT: Marte cranks a 2-run homer to right field

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Marte goes deep: Pirates starter Chad Kuhl was working to limit the damage to just one run in the first inning when Ketel Marte stepped to the plate with two outs and David Peralta on first. Kuhl was ahead in the count 1-2, but Marte was able to homer to right to give the D-backs a 3-0 lead. That seemed to set the tone for the night, as Arizona would go on to score three in the second and two more in the third.

Hey, Jay: After going hitless in his first three starts for the D-backs since he was acquired from the Royals on June 6, Jon Jay has become the leadoff hitter Arizona was looking for. Jay has hit .447 since those three games, and he helped the D-backs once again Thursday night with a double to lead off the game. Jay added a double in the second that scored a pair of runs.

Video: ARI@PIT: Jay doubles to right and drives in a pair

"He sets the tone, and then he has a big hit down the right-field line that gives us a couple more runs," Lovullo said. "Very versatile, and he knows what the at-bat is asking for."

HE SAID IT
"You have to give a lot of credit to Zack Godley, because sometimes those are days where the pitcher loses a little concentration because they know they're out in front. But he kept making his pitches." -- Lovullo, on Godley pitching with a big lead

Video: ARI@PIT: Godley strikes out 5 in 6 solid innings

UP NEXT
The D-backs continue their four-game series with the Pirates on Friday at 4:05 p.m. MT at PNC Park. Left-hander Patrick Corbin will start for the D-backs, coming off a pair of sub-par starts. Last time out, he allowed five runs over six innings against the Mets. Before that, he faced the Pirates at Chase Field and allowed five runs over 5 1/3 innings. However, Corbin has a 1.90 ERA over his last four road starts. He'll face the Pirates' Ivan Nova.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Alex Avila, Zack Godley, Jon Jay, Ketel Marte