Once again, members of the Pirates lineup that have been quiet in recent weeks caused a ruckus at the plate.
Josh Harrison and Clint Barmes followed the pattern set by Pedro Alvarez over the weekend, interrupting a string of poor performances with a good offensive game.
Harrison and Barmes backed a solid outing by Kevin Correia that gave the Pirates their third win in a row, a 7-2 victory against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night at PNC Park.
The Pirates scored at least six runs for the fifth time in their past seven games. The run support, all but non-existent in April, has increased in recent weeks: Entering the game Tuesday, their 75 runs in June tied for third in the National League. They had 12 hits Tuesday, five of them for extra bases.
Harrison, who entered Tuesday on a 2-for-23 streak in his past 13 games, hit a ball high in the air to left field in the first inning. Josh Willingham momentarily lost it in the sun, then tracked it to the wall. It hit the top of the wall, appeared to ricochet off Willingham and bounced into the stands for Harrison's second home run of the season.
"I knew I hit it pretty well but I thought it was kind of high," Harrison said. "When I saw he didn't throw it in, I assumed it went over."
Harrison scored the Pirates' next run in the fifth. He singled and stole second before Andrew McCutchen walked, and they ended up on second and third after a double steal. Casey McGehee's sacrifice fly scored Harrison and gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
"We knew that was a big spot," Harrison said. "It was a one-run game at that time. We had a pretty good feel for that guy."
Harrison is in the driver's seat as the lead runner in that situation and said he felt confident.
"I'm committed to it," manager Clint Hurdle said regarding aggression on the bases. "We've got to be aggressive. We've got to be moving."
They were moving again an inning later. Pedro Alvarez singled in the sixth and took off for second on a pitch to Barmes. Barmes doubled to the gap in right-center field, his third hit of the game, and Alvarez scored to put the Pirates ahead, 3-0.
In his past 10 games before Tuesday, Barmes had six hits, only one for extra bases, in 34 at-bats. The double raised Barmes' average to .200, the first time this season it crested at that mark.
Matt Hague's pinch-hit groundout scored Barmes to put the Pirates ahead, 4-0.
The Pirates capitalized on the Twins' bullpen after forcing starter Scott Diamond from the game in the sixth. A two-run homer by Andrew McCutchen, a high pop fly that curled around the left-field foul pole, put the Pirates ahead, 6-2, in the seventh, and Rod Barajas' sacrifice fly increased the lead to 7-2.
Diamond (5-3) allowed four runs on eight hits in 51/3 innings.
Correia (3-6) kept the Twins on the ground and stifled their offense for the majority of his 51/3 scoreless innings. He induced 12 ground-ball outs, compared to two in the air, walked one and struck out two.
"I think we tend to forget that the first half of last season, he was pretty good," Hurdle said.
The Twins fouled off a good number of pitches from Correia, elevating his pitch count to 97. He faced two eight-pitch at-bats in the third and an 11-pitch marathon against Brian Dozier in the fifth.
"It kept his attention peaked," Hurdle said. "I think he added and subtracted to his pitching velocity better [Tuesday night] than he has in a long time.
"I think he widened the gap in velocity for them to cover, and just stayed in counts and kept making pitches."
Correia walked Ben Revere in the sixth and allowed a single to Josh Willingham before Hurdle removed him for Tony Watson, who faced left-handed Justin Morneau. Watson got Morneau to fly out, but walked Trevor Plouffe on four pitches to load the bases. Watson struck out Ryan Doumit swinging, though, to strand the runners.
Juan Cruz allowed a two-run home run to Span in the seventh.pirates
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 20, 2012 4:15 AM