Jordy Mercer officially found himself on the Pirates roster about two hours before the game Friday night after the team put second baseman Neil Walker on the disabled list. Shortly thereafter, manager Clint Hurdle inserted him into the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
"I hit him second because he's been hot," Hurdle said.
Mercer delivered with a tiebreaking home run that led the Pirates to a 3-1 victory against the Washington Nationals at PNC Park.
"I got myself in a good count and just let it fly," Mercer said.
"Whatever happens, happens, after that."
Nationals (Strasburg 1-4) vs. Pirates (Locke 3-1), 4:05 p.m.
The Pirates won their second game in a row and improved to 17-12. They also dropped the Nationals back to .500.
Mercer started well at the plate as Class AAA Indianapolis' shortstop this season, hitting .333. He made his major league with the Pirates debut in 2012, but played sparingly. He hit one home run in 62 official at-bats last season and had only one in 109 plate appearances for Indianapolis this year.
Starling Marte stole two bases, giving him nine on the season. One of them kept an inning alive and allowed Mercer the opportunity to give the Pirates the lead.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the fifth, Marte singled with two outs. He broke for second base with Mercer batting, but left-handed Ross Detwiler tried to pick him off, throwing to first baseman Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche, however, could not get his throw off to second base in time, however, and Marte was safe.
Mercer then hit a 2-0 fastball into the wind just over the left-field wall to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
"I knew I hit it good," Mercer said. "It's a big park, and the wind was blowing, too."
Mercer's other major league home run also proved to be a winner. He gave the Pirates a 7-4 lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks Aug. 8 after he homered against Josh Collmenter in the sixth inning. The Diamondbacks added a run in the seventh and eighth innings, but the Pirates held on to win, 7-6.
Andrew McCutchen went 3 for 4 in the series opener against Washington Friday night and added to the improvement that began in Milwaukee after a seven-game stretch in which he went 2 for 26.
In the past four games, McCutchen is 8 for 17 with two home runs.
McCutchen continued his destruction of the Nationals. He entered the game 38 for 86 (.442) with 18 extra-base hits in 23 games against Washington.
The strikeouts continued for A.J. Burnett, who finished with nine. He entered the game leading the National League with 48 in 35 innings. Burnett (3-2) allowed one run on five hits through seven innings, walking one.
"We were very efficient," Burnett said. "We mixed in some changeups we don't normally throw."
When Burnett led the American League with 231 strikeouts in 2008, he also led the league in strikeouts per nine innings, with 9.4.
He is now striking out 12.2 batters per nine innings.
"I'm trying to keep up with Yu Darvish," Burnett joked.
After this start, Burnett's was one behind the Texas Rangers right-hander's 58.
Mark Melancon pitched the eighth, striking out Bryce Harper to strand runners at the corners, and Jason Grilli recorded his 12th save.
Detwiler (1-3) allowed three runs in five-plus innings, walking two and striking out five.
McCutchen gave the Pirates the lead in the first with his fourth homer this season. Detwiler left a fastball up and over the plate that McCutchen hit into the second level of seats in left.
The Nationals tied it in the fourth, taking advantage of a two-out walk to LaRoche. Tyler Moore and Danny Espinosa singled, and LaRoche scored ahead of Brandon Inge's throw from right.
Russell Martin threw to third base to retire Moore, who tried to advance from first to third on the play.
Jeff Locke, who has not allowed a run in his previous two starts, takes the mound today against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.
In the meantime, Mercer will attempt to rest while spending a whole day in the same spot. He flew to Lehigh Valley with Indianapolis Thursday, then flew to Pittsburgh before the game Friday night.
"These last 48 hours have been pretty rough," he said.
"I'm glad it's over and I'm ready to go get some sleep."
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 4, 2013 2:15 AM