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Alvarez quietly boosting Bucs' offense

First baseman leads Pirates with 19 home runs

PITTSBURGH -- In a losing effort, an already-muffled hot streak could fall on even fewer ears. But Pedro Alvarez did his best to get noticed Monday night.

The Pirates fell to the D-backs, 4-1, in the series opener at PNC Park, but Alvarez furthered his subtly fruitful form with yet another home run.

Alvarez now has four homers in his past six starts, including back-to-back home run games for the fourth time this season. That considered, his manager is surprised the 28-year-old's prosperity has been overlooked.

"I haven't had a lot of questions asked about him," Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle said. "Very quietly he's picked up his offense in a very consistent fashion."

Alvarez's solo shot over right field's Clemente Wall -- his 19th homer of the season and the 1,000th Pirate home run at PNC Park -- wasn't enough to carry Pittsburgh to a win, but it's a positive sign for the first baseman, who surpassed his 2014 home run total.

As Hurdle noted, Alvarez has been dependable recently, and he's producing more than just home runs. The six-year veteran is hitting .342 with a .632 slugging percentage this month after a .218 average and .436 slugging mark in July.

Those improved results come with a fine-line combination of attacking and patience.

In his past two home run at-bats, Alvarez has worked a 2-0 count. On Monday night, it was against deliberately slow-working and tricky Jeremy Hellickson, and the day before it was against Mets ace Matt Harvey.

The other two home runs this month came on first-pitch strikes.

Simply put, Alvarez is swinging when he's supposed to and laying off balls. Of course, that's easier said than done, especially for a career .237 hitter.

"He's barreling up balls in the strike zone. He's not chasing a number of pitches outside the zone," Hurdle said. "He's done a really good job with his discipline and his balance."

And while it wasn't the deciding factor on Monday, Alvarez will have plenty of chances to build on his recent accomplishments -- and earn some further recognition -- in the near future.

John McGonigal is an associate reporter for
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