Pirates sweep Seattle, climb to 18 games above .500
June 27, 2013 10:45 AM
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
The Pirates' Neil Walker heads to the dugout after he hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Mariners.
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
Andrew McCutchen hits a foul ball in the first inning against the Mariners.
By Michael Sanserino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SEATTLE -- The Mariners got the matchup they wanted by bringing Jordy Mercer to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning.
Mercer wanted them to regret that decision.
After the Mariners intentionally walked Travis Snider to bring Mercer to the plate with a tie score and a runner in scoring position, Mercer smacked a single up the middle to drive in the winning run in a 4-2 Pirates victory Wednesday against the Mariners at Safeco Field.
"You're the guy they want to face, and I'm the guy that wants to be up there, too," Mercer said.
His RBI single helped deliver the Pirates' sixth consecutive victory, which includes a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels and a two-game sweep of the Mariners. Entering this road swing, the Pirates (48-30) had never swept an American League opponent away from Pittsburgh.
Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina intentionally walked Snider to set up a more favorable right-handed matchup with Mercer, though Snider entered the game hitting just four points better than Mercer against right-handed pitching.
Reliever Vin Mazzaro earned the win, pitching two scoreless innings with the score tied.
Snider added an insurance run in the ninth when he raced home on a wild pitch. Mercer went 2 for 4 with an RBI, and Pedro Alvarez scored the winning run after leading off the ninth with a single, his second hit of the game.
Alvarez has a 10-game hitting streak, tied with Starling Marte for the Pirates' longest streak of the season.
The Pirates waited out another strong outing from Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who allowed two earned runs on six hits in seven innings. He dominated the Pirates in an earlier meeting this season.
"You've just go to battle him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You've got to battle him to try to get his pitch count up so you can get him out before it's the ninth inning. We were able to do that."
Pirates starter Jeanmar Gomez, pitching for the first time since being placed on the disabled list June 3, looked more polished than rusty. He struck out five batters and allowed one unearned run in five innings.
"It was a little bit, not weird, but I had to think a little bit," Gomez said. "It was a long time since I last pitched -- almost a month. But I felt good."
He threw a season-high 81 pitches, allowing three hits and walking two.
But once he left the game, the Mariners (34-45) evened the score. Raul Ibanez blasted his 18th home run of the season, a solo shot off Justin Wilson in the sixth that tied it, 2-2.
"Bad pitch, good swing," Wilson said. "I'm just glad we battled back."
Hernandez struck out 11, cheered on by a large group of yellow-clad fans sitting in "King's Court" in left field that more resembled Duke basketball's Cameron Crazies than a baseball crowd.
But the Pirates pounced on Hernandez's biggest mistake of the afternoon.
Neil Walker smoked a 3-1 fastball that Hernandez left over the plate, hitting a two-run home run that gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the fourth. It was the sixth home run of the season for Walker, who had not hit a ball out of the park since June 12.
Walker missed the first game against Hernandez this season, on the disabled list with a deep cut on his hand. He made the most of his chance to come at the King on Wednesday with two hits in three at-bats.
But after getting a lead on one of the league's best pitchers, the Pirates seemed determined to give those runs back on defense in the bottom of the inning.
A strikeout pitch to Ibanez got past Russell Martin and rolled to the backstop, allowing Ibanez to take first. Justin Smoak followed with a hard-hit ball toward Gaby Sanchez at first that should have resulted in an inning-ending double play. But with the shift on against a left-handed batter, there was confusion between Alvarez and Mercer as to who would cover second base.
The throw skipped past both and rolled into shallow left field, an error on Mercer that allowed Ibanez to take third. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Saunders to cut the Pirates' lead in half.
Without those defensive lapses, Gomez would have pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Instead, the Mariners scored a run and Gomez threw 30 pitches.