Pirates' Walker's eighth home run of season comes one game after hitting streak ends
July 21, 2012 8:15 AM
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, right, argues with plate umpire Mark Wegner Friday at PNC Park.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker celebrates with center fielder Andrew McCutchen after beating the Marlins, 4-3, Friday at PNC Park.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walkers hits a solo home run in the fifth inning Friday against the Marlins at PNC Park.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The hitting streak ended Wednesday for Neil Walker. Thankfully for him and the Pirates, the month of July didn't.
Walker hit the go-ahead home run and sent the Pirates to a 4-3 win against the Miami Marlins in front of a sellout crowd Friday night at PNC Park, giving the Pirates their fourth win in the past six games and third in a row.
Walker had a 17-game hitting streak until he went 0 for 4 Wednesday at Colorado. He wasted no time getting back on the board with a single in the first inning. He broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth with a line-drive home run, his eighth this season.
In 15 games in July, Walker is 26 for 57 (.456) with four home runs. He raised his average for the season to .301 after hitting .258 as late as June 22.
"It took him awhile to find his way this season," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Kevin Correia gave up plenty of hits, but kept most of the baserunners from scoring. He allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings, striking out five and walking none.
"He didn't have his best stuff," Hurdle said. "He stayed away from the big inning."
Correia (7-6) has struck out 11 in his past 11 innings. He struck out six Brewers Saturday in Milwaukee, his season high. Entering the game, he had only 41 strikeouts in 971/3 innings.
"I think my strikeouts were really low in the first half because I was trying to be efficient and get quick outs," Correia said. "I decided to pitch for strikeouts more often than I was in the first half."
He got Carlos Lee, who with a strikeout once every 14.6 plate appearances is the hardest player to strike out in the National League, to go down swinging twice.
Jose Reyes hit the second pitch of the game into right-center field seats for his fifth home run of the season.
Emilio Bonifacio followed with a single, then stole second and third. He scored on Lee's ground ball, and the Marlins took an early 2-0 lead.
Alex Presley walked to lead off the bottom of the first and Walker singled. Garrett Jones then singled down the first-base line to score Presley. Jones went to second on a wild pitch after Casey McGehee struck out, but Ricky Nolasco struck out Pedro Alvarez to strand the runners.
Nolasco allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings, walking one and striking out seven.
Singles from Omar Infante and John Buck put runners on first and third in the fourth. With two strikes, Nolasco bunted, and Infante, reading the play, scored on a squeeze to give the Marlins a 3-1 lead.
The Pirates tied it in the fourth. Alvarez stayed on a 1-2 curveball and hit his 20th home run of the season with one out. Rod Barajas followed with a double that skipped over the left-field wall, and Clint Barmes singled to center to score him.
The Pirates have homered in nine consecutive games and entered the game ranked 10th in the majors in home runs.
"It's a lot of fun," Alvarez said of hitting in a lineup with that type of power. "We're never out of any game. It doesn't matter what the deficit is."
Chris Resop replaced Correia and pitched a perfect sixth, but allowed consecutive singles with one out in the seventh. Jared Hughes replaced Resop and stranded both runners. Hughes has allowed only one of his 19 inherited runners to score this season.
Walker's defense helped the cause as well. With a runner on first in the eighth, Walker fielded a ground ball, swiped at the runner as he advanced to second and threw to first for the double play as he fell onto the infield grass.
"That double play was as important as anything we did [Friday night]," Hurdle said.
Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless eighth. Joel Hanrahan allowed two singles in the ninth that put runners on first and third, and a stolen base put the go-ahead runner in scoring position, but he escaped with his 27th save.
"From that point on he did what he does," Hurdle said. "He made pitches."