SEATTLE -- The Pirates found the perfect recipe for winning baseball games Tuesday night: Hit five home runs and chase the starting pitcher from the game before he can finish the second inning.
The Pirates pounded Seattle starter Joe Saunders, tagging him for six earned runs before he could record six outs in an eventual 9-4 victory against the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Saunders was chased from the game after just 1 2/3 innings, having surrendered three homers in the second inning as the Pirates (47-30) cruised past the Mariners (34-44) for their fifth consecutive victory.
The five homers in the game were the most since the Pirates hit five home runs against Milwaukee on July 22, 2009.
"We had some power jump out there again," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's been a nice sequence of game. I felt confident the offense would pick up because they're capable, and they're showing their capabilities now."
For the first time since 1992, the Pirates are 17 games over .500.
Starling Marte led the Pirates' offense with a pair of home runs, his first career multi-homer game, and sprinted out a triple. He scored three times in the win.
"There is a power tool there," Hurdle said of Marte. "And it is legit."
Both of Marte's homers were first-pitch fastballs that landed some 400-odd feet from home plate. And when Marte's at-bat, he's aggressively looking for that first pitch fastball.
"Oh yeah," he said. "Everybody likes first-pitch fastballs right down the middle."
Pirates starter Jeff Locke was effective, allowing two earned runs on four hits in seven innings. He started the game a bit erratic but settled into a nice groove.
Locke said it felt like it had been a long time since he took the mound last -- June 19 against the Cincinnati Reds. He even mentioned to the coaching staff he felt a bit weird in the early going, Hurdle said.
"I felt good once the game got going along, breaking ball got a little tighter as the game got going along," Locke said. "And I started to have a bit better command."
His shutout streak was snapped in the second inning, but he earned his team-leading seventh victory of the season.
Locke's ERA climbed from 2.01 to 2.06 in the game, enough to drop him into a tie for second in the National League behind New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (2.05). Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed pitcher like Locke, is also sitting at 2.06.
The Pirates pulled away from the Mariners in the second inning, scoring five runs on five hits while sending nine men to the plate.
Russell Martin led off the inning with his eighth home run of the season, cracking a 3-1 fastball over the wall in right-center field. That homer extended an early lead for the Pirates, but it was just the start of the run show.
Brandon Inge, who had one hit in 15 at-bats this month, hit his first homer of the season later in the inning, a three-run blast over the left-center wall.
"It was as good for him personally as it was for the team," Hurdle said of Inge.
"He's right," countered Inge.
Marte followed by crushing a first-pitch fastball over the center field wall for his seventh home run of the season.
It was the second time this year the Pirates homered in consecutive at-bats. And Marte's long ball made it a 6-0 Pirates lead before Saunders recorded his fifth out of the game.
That fifth out was the last one he would get. After Andrew McCutchen hit a two-out double down the left field line, Mariner manager Eric Wedge pulled Saunders from the game.
Saunders had pitched well against the Pirates, going 2-0 in three starts with a 3.15 ERA. And in four other starts this month, he posted a 1.95 ERA while limiting opposing hitters to a .225 batting average. He had allowed just six earned runs in 27 2/3 innings in June before matching that mark in 1 2/3 innings Tuesday.
The Mariners chipped into the Pirates lead in the bottom of the second inning when Carlos Triunfel dropped a bloop single into shallow center field with two outs, scoring Raul Ibanez from second to make it 6-1.
It was the first earned run allowed by Locke in 15 innings after the left-hander didn't allow a run in back-to-back seven-inning outings.
He allowed his first home run since May 14 in the sixth inning, when Seager led off the inning with a towering homer that dropped a couple rows beyond the right field wall.
Marte tripled to leadoff the game, lacing the ball into the right field corner then scampering around the bases before Jason Bay could get the ball back to the infield. He scored on the next play when Mercer grounded out to second base, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
After the first two innings, Marte was halfway to hitting for the cycle with the hardest legs -- a triple and a home run -- already completed. But instead of adding a double and a single to his stat line, he hit another homer instead, a no-doubter in the eighth inning.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published June 26, 2013 5:15 AM