Pirates bats 'sing in the rain'

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The rain came in the eighth inning, a brief spurt that lasted only a few minutes. It mimicked the Pirates’ scoring — brief spurts in the late innings that gave them their second come-from-behind victory in as many days.

In an 8-6 victory against Toronto Saturday night at PNC Park, the Pirates scored six runs in the seventh and eighth innings, five of them against the Blue Jays bullpen. Jordy Mercer’s pinch-hit double tied the score in the seventh and Neil Walker’s two-run double in the eighth gave the Pirates the lead.

“The opportunity to get a chance to help the team win, come up with a big hit, you live for those moments,” Mercer said. “It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

For the second consecutive night the Blue Jays bullpen failed to hold a lead. Starter R.A. Dickey provided a small opening. The Pirates then jumped all over left-hander Aaron Loup in a four-run, nine-batter seventh. Todd Redmond allowed two more runs in the eighth.

The win came in spite of a poor defensive showing that included four errors, two of them by Pedro Alvarez, and a bad start from Francisco Liriano.

“[It] was one of the nights we didn’t play real great defense, we didn’t pitch real well, but somehow we found a way to win in the end,” Walker said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty.”

Walker came to the plate right as the rain started coming down in the eighth, after two singles put runners on first and third. He doubled to the wall off Redmond, scoring two runs and breaking a 6-6 tie.

Dickey had not allowed an extra-base hit until Clint Barmes doubled to lead off the seventh with the Pirates trailing, 6-2. That was it for Dickey when Blue Jays manager John Gibbons replaced him with left-hander Loup to match up with left-handed Ike Davis.

Davis grounded out, sending Barmes to third. Josh Harrison pulled an RBI double down the left-field line to score Barmes.

Walker singled, Andrew McCutchen walked to load the bases and Alvarez grounded out to score a run. Mercer drove a two-run double over the head of Colby Rasmus in center field to tie the score, 6-6. The double, Mercer’s second extra-base hit of the season, broke an 0-for-25 slump.

“He’s doing a real good job of not panicking and not listening to what everybody is telling him,” Walker said. “He’s doing just fine and [that] was justice of him going up there, coming off the bench and getting an absolutely huge hit.”

Before that, Dickey kept the Pirates in check. He allowed three runs on five hits in six-plus innings.

“He’s a quality pitcher,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s an All-Star. He’s won 20 games in the big leagues and he was on. As soon as he’s out, it’s just better. That’s no knock against anybody else, it’s just going to be different.”

Bryan Morris (3-0) earned the win in relief and Mark Melancon saved his first game of the season. Redmond (0-3) was the loser.

Four of the five runs Liriano allowed were earned. He has allowed four earned runs in four of his seven starts this season, but Saturday he did so in 32⁄3 innings. He walked three, all in the fourth inning in which the Blue Jays scored four runs. The final walk forced in a run and prompted Hurdle to remove Liriano from the game.

After throwing a first-pitch strike to four of the first six batters he faced in the first two innings, Liriano fell behind six of the final 14.

“Everything changed, the whole game changed,” Liriano said. “I didn’t execute my pitches. I was missing my spot a lot, too.”

Liriano allowed the first four batters of the fourth to reach base on a walk, two singles and a double. Three runs scored, but a double play cleared the bases and brought up Josh Thole

Thole hit a grounder between first baseman Gaby Sanchez and Walker that Walker handled. His throw arrived at first just before Thole’s foot touched the bag and first-base umpire Greg Gibson called Thole safe. Hurdle challenged, but the play stood and extended the inning.

Dickey grounded to short, but Barmes booted it to put runners on the corners and bring the top of the order to the plate. Liriano walked Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, the latter base on balls forcing home a run, before Hurdle removed him.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.

First Published May 3, 2014 10:38 PM

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