The Pittsburgh Pirates are missing two or their top run-producers and another one they’d like to get going again, but their offense hasn’t looked depleted at all over the past two nights.
After putting up seven runs in a critical rebound win over Miami on Wednesday, the Pirates once again got the bats going Thursday, rapping out 13 hits in a 7-2 victory against those same Marlins at PNC Park. Rookie Gregory Polanco led the way with his second four-RBI game in the big leagues, while Jordy Mercer had a team-high three hits.
With their latest series win, the Pirates (61-53) stayed within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Brewers in the National League Central race and guaranteed they’d be within a half-game of a wild-card spot on Friday morning. Pittsburgh improved to a league-best 36-22 at home.
Mercer’s night included a double that led to a three-run fourth inning and an RBI single in the fifth that plated Pittsburgh’s fifth run. The Bucs shortstop batted in the second spot of the order for the second night in a row with Clint Hurdle forced to shuffle things around in the absence of Andrew McCutchen (broken rib) and Neil Walker (lower-back tightness).
Russell Martin hit third, collecting two hits and a run batted in, while Josh Harrison extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single out of the leadoff spot. However, Polanco may have had the biggest at-bat of the night, as the right fielder drove in a pair with a bases-loaded single in the fourth against Marlins left-handed starter Brian Flynn. Polanco added a bullet throw to third for an outfield assist in the fifth and a two-run double in the eighth.
For all the fireworks from the Pirates’ ‘B’ lineup that was also missing Pedro Alvarez, starting pitcher Edinson Volquez had as much of a hand in the win as anyone. Much like Jeff Locke the night before, Volquez emerged from a post all-star break funk to toss seven impressive innings.
In fact, Volquez was sharper than Locke, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth and allowing only one single overall. He walked three, but struck out a season high-tying seven to stifle a Marlins lineup that presents little danger beyond Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton.
Gaby Sanchez, derided by fans for his lack of production this season, followed up his two-run double Wednesday with a sharp RBI single in the fifth. Starling Marte banged out a pair of doubles, and even replacement players Michael Martinez (second base) and Jayson Nix (third base) made a handful of high-quality defensive plays, adding to the positive feel at PNC.
The only quiet moment came in the bottom of the seventh, when Mercer lined a shot back to the mound that struck Marlins reliever Dan Jennings in the side of the head. Jennings stumbled around before taking a knee; he was eventually carted off the field after showing clear signs of disorientation.
Pittsburgh’s Justin Wilson fanned a pair of Marlins in the eighth to get back on track after a rough outing Tuesday. Stolmy Pimentel handled the ninth, giving Tony Watson and Mark Melancon another night off.