With rallies in the third, fifth and sixth innings, the Pittsburgh Pirates outslugged the San Francisco Giants for a 12-8 win on Wednesday in Game 2 of a three-game series at PNC Park. The two teams combined for 33 hits before 19,966 at the ballpark.
Starling Marte led the slugfest with a career-high four hits and scored four times while Neil Walker and Alex Presley hit solo home runs. The hit parade continued as Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen each went 3 for 5, with McCutchen driving in the first three runs off Giants starter Barry Zito.
Gaby Sanchez went 3 for 4 as the Bucs set season highs for both runs and hits in a game. The Pirates (39-26) have won four of their last five, moving them within three games of National League Central leader St. Louis.
Zito allowed eight runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. The left-hander saw his ERA on the road soar to 11.28 this season. The defending World Series champions have lost 12 of 16 away from home.
Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, despite surrendering a season-high four runs in six innings, improved his record to 5-2. The left-hander struck out only two, walked three, and gave up eight hits in a shaky performance.
The Pirates built leads of 4-1, 10-4 and 11-6, as left-handers Justin Wilson and Tony Watson each worked one inning and allowed two runs apiece. Righty Jason Grilli worked a perfect ninth to finally shut the door on San Francisco.
The Giants got on the scoreboard in the top of the first on Hunter Pence’s RBI double. It was the Bucs turn when McCutchen followed Marte’s and Mercer’s singles in the bottom of the frame with a single to left, tying the game.
The Bucs broke the logjam in the bottom of the third as Marte and Mercer again both singled to lead off the inning. McCutchen doubled the pair home with a line drive to center. Russell Martin grounded into a double play that scored McCutchen, making it 4-1.
The Giants’ Hunter Pence doubled to left to lead off the top of the fourth. Juan Perez’s sacrifice fly to center scored Pence, and San Francisco continued the comeback in the top of the fifth. With two out and the bases loaded, Joaquin Arias singled to center to score both Andres Torres and Tony Abreu, making it 4-4.
Pittsburgh retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Russell Martin grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Marte for a 5-4 edge. Pedro Alvarez (RBI double) and Neil Walker (two-run single) added big hits to raise the Pittsburgh lead to four runs.
The Bucs increased their lead in the bottom of the sixth. Pinch-hitter Alex Presley led off with a homer to right, followed by Sanchez’s double that drove in Marte. Walker sent a shot over the right-field wall in the seventh, confirmed by video review. Martin added a fielder’s choice RBI for the Pirates’ 12th run.
The Giants got two runs in the seventh off Wilson, then pulled within 11-8 after Buster Posey’s two-run single off Watson in the eighth.
The final game of the three-game series is set for 7:05 p.m. Thursday. The Giants (33-31) will send righthander Matt Cain (4-3, 5.09 ERA) to the mound, while Pittsburgh will counter with righthander Charlie Morton. It is Morton’s first start since having Tommy John surgery a year ago. The contest will be broadcast on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.
The Pirates homestand will continue on Friday with a three-game series beginning against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
From The Clipboard: Sixteen of the Bucs’ last 23 games have been decided by one or two runs. Overall this season, Pittsburgh is 26-13 in games decided by two runs or less, including a 15-7 mark at PNC Park…Pedro Alvarez leads all National League third basemen with 44 home runs hit over the last two seasons…With his major league debut last night, Gerrit Cole is just the third Pirates pitcher since 1900 to pitch at least six innings without allowing a walk in a debut according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cole’s fastball averaged 96.1 mph.