Cardiac kids: Pirates sweep Marlins with third straight comeback win

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Typically, the postgame pie in the face tastes a lot better to Russell Martin.

He should know because he has become somewhat of a connoisseur this season.

Martin delivered his fourth walk-off RBI this year to lift the Pirates to a 5-4 victory in 10 innings Thursday against the Miami Marlins at PNC Park.

"Normally, it's whipped cream," Martin said.

This time, it was shaving cream. But that's really his only complaint after delivering a pinch-hit, two-out, full-count single down the left-field line, scoring Josh Harrison from second and sending the crowd of 33,646 at PNC Park into a frenzy.

"I told him today he was going to be the last man in," manager Clint Hurdle said. "And he was the last man in."

That's because there was no baseball left after Martin's at-bat.

All the Pirates are getting used to these late-game wins. The victory Thursday was the Pirates' ninth walk-off win this season, a PNC Park record. Two of the wins in the three-game sweep of the Marlins came in walk-off fashion, with Harrison scoring the winner both times.

"We want to stay away from walk-offs, try to score in the first eight and have [Mark] Melancon close it in the ninth," Harrison said. "But, for the time being, it's fun."

With the victory, the Pirates (70-44) have won five consecutive games, their second longest winning streak season. The Marlins (43-70) have lost five games in a row.

It is the earliest the Pirates have reached 70 wins since 1972, when they reached 70 in 112 games. They wrapped up the 11-game homestand with a 9-2 record.

All three wins against the Marlins were comeback victories, giving the Pirates 28 this season.

"That's just how our team is," Martin said. "It's going to be somebody different every day."

The Pirates climbed back from a four-run deficit against the Marlins by scoring five unanswered runs.

Starter Gerrit Cole lasted just five innings, tied for his shortest outing, and gave up a career-high four earned runs.

He had good velocity on his fastball, which regularly topped 96 mph, but he struggled with location.

"I just missed a few spots in the first inning and quite a few spots really," Cole said.

He gave up two runs in the first, another two in the fifth when Christian Yelich hit his first major league home run.

"He was a little up in the zone, a tad quick, trying to do too much," catcher Tony Sanchez said. "But he grinded though. He gave us five innings and kept us in the ballgame. He and I still have a lot to learn."

This was the second time this season Cole, 22, matched up with his fellow 2011 draft pick Jose Fernandez, 21, an All-Star this year who has turned into one of baseball's best young pitchers.

But he, too, struggle, allowing two earned runs on five hits in his shortest outing since June. He threw 101 pitches, 61 for strikes, in an inefficient outing.

Hurdle said part of the goal against Fernandez was to raise his pitch count as quickly as possible.

"That was our mindset," Hurdle said. "Truthfully, our mindset every game is to push the starter, to see pitches. Sometimes, the pitchers cooperate. It probably wasn't Jose's best command game for him."

After going more than a month without hitting a sacrifice fly, the Pirates evened the score in the seventh by hitting two of them. Former Pirates reliever Chad Qualls loaded the bases with no outs, the second time he did that in the three-game series.

Neil Walker and Gaby Sanchez hit sacrifice flies to right, scoring Jose Tabata and Starling Marte to tie the score, 4-4.

Pirates reliever Justin Wilson escaped a jam in the eighth.

After sandwiching a single between two-out walks to load the bases, Wilson got Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis to foul out to end the threat and keep the score tied.

"Through the course of his season, that was probably the biggest out for him as any out he's had this year," Hurdle said of Wilson.

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Michael Sanserino:, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 8, 2013 8:30 PM


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