Everything fell apart for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth inning Tuesday night, as the Miami Marlins plated five runs against three Bucs relievers to rally for a 6-3 victory at PNC Park.
After Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton got back on track with a strong seven-inning performance, Justin Wilson walked in a pair of runs and Jeanmar Gomez allowed three more to cross the plate, dooming Pittsburgh (59-53) to its second consecutive loss.
Jared Hughes had his share of the blame in the Pirates’ 18th blown save of the season, a total that is tied for the major-league lead with the Rockies. The right-hander retired Jordany Valdespin to open the top of the eighth, but he walked the dangerous Giancarlo Stanton to start the Miami comeback.
Still, it looked like Hughes had the situation under control when Casey McGehee tapped a soft grounder to the left side. But third baseman Josh Harrison couldn’t field it cleanly, an error that pushed Pirates manager Clint Hurdle out of the dugout to make a pitching change.
With the lefty Garrett Jones up next, Hurdle turned to southpaw Wilson, who ended up facing pinch-hitter Jeff Baker instead. Baker singled to load the bases, then Wilson completely lost his control, walking Marcell Ozuna and Jarrod Saltalamacchia back-to-back to put the Marlins (55-57) ahead for the first time.
Gomez didn’t fare much better, with Adeiny Hechavarria singling in a run and Reed Johnson bringing home another with a fielder’s choice grounder that was too softly hit for the Pirates to turn a double play. Christian Yelich made it a four-run lead one batter later, slugging a double over left fielder Travis Snider‘s head.
Pittsburgh got a run back in the ninth on Chris Stewart‘s RBI single that scored Gregory Polanco, but Snider took strike three from Marlins reliever Chris Hatcher to end the game. The Pirates’ second loss in a row dropped them two games behind the National League Central-leading Brewers and one back of the second-place Cardinals.
Tuesday’s game was a pitcher’s duel through six innings, with Morton and Miami starter Brad Hand allowing just a run apiece to that point. Each gave up six hits, although Morton lasted through seven while lefty Hand was pulled with one out in the seventh. Gregory Polanco chased him with an RBI hit to left field that plated Neil Walker, who had walked to start the frame.
A.J. Ramos cleaned up the damage for the Marlins, which proved huge in the next half inning. Morton, who navigated four walks with the help of two double plays, had to settle for a good outing in defeat. He had struggled in his past two starts, which led to losses in Colorado and San Francisco.
Starling Marte made his return to the Pirates lineup after a stint on the disabled list with a concussion; he took the place of the injured Andrew McCutchen (broken rib) in center field, going 1 for 4 in the leadoff spot. Jordy Mercer and Stewart had two hits and an RBI each.
Former Pirate Jones reached base all three times he came up, impressing in his first game at PNC Park as a visitor.