MIAMI — What with all the attention paid to Gregory Polanco in the past six months, his first major league homer might have lacked the necessary gravitas had it come in the fourth inning of some random game. The occasion Friday seemed appropriate.
Polanco’s first career home run gave the Pirates an 8-6 win in 13 innings against the Miami Marlins Friday night at Marlins Park, a game the Pirates had all but locked up until the bullpen gave it back in the ninth.
“That could have been a coming-out party for him,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Clint Barmes singled off left-hander Mike Dunn in the 13th before Polanco hit a 2-2 slider into the seats in right-center field. It was part of Polanco’s 5-for-7 performance at the plate in his fourth major league game, and his mother had traveled from the Dominican Republic to attend it.
“This is my best game ever,” Polanco said. “The first time she’s here watching me play. I was so excited.”
After Jeff Locke didn’t walk a batter for eight innings, three Pirates relievers issued six walks — one intentional to load the bases — in the ninth that allowed the Marlins to score four runs and tie the score.
Justin Wilson inherited a four-run lead in the ninth but walked two. Jason Grilli entered and walked another before yielding an RBI groundout to Ed Lucas. He walked one more before Reed Johnson hit a two-run single on an 0-2 pitch.
Grilli intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton, who was a triple shy of the cycle, to load the bases for Casey McGehee, and Hurdle brought in Mark Melancon. Melancon had McGehee down in the count, 0-2, but walked him to drive in the tying run.
“Nobody’s going out there to walk guys,” Hurdle said. “People are going out to get outs. It didn’t happen.”
Jeanmar Gomez earned the win in relief. He allowed one hit in four scoreless innings and struck out four, using his fastball to great effect.
“For me, it was the best fastball I think we’ve seen from him this year,” Hurdle said.
Starling Marte homered and tied a career high with four hits and Andrew McCutchen continued his offensive tear. Marte added a stolen base and Polanco a diving catch.
Polanco led off the game with a single, giving him a hit in his first four career games. Marte followed by driving a 1-0 fastball into the Clevelander Club in left field for his fifth home run.
Marte beat out an infield single to deep shortstop in the third and stole second. He got a late jump on McCutchen’s single to shallow left, but third-base coach Nick Leyva waved Marte home. The throw from Reed Johnson, who had taken over in left field after Christian Yelich left the game because of a lower back strain, fell well short and the Pirates led, 3-1.
The Pirates forced Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi from the game in the fifth. After Polanco and Marte each singled and moved to scoring position on a fly ball and a wild pitch, Ike Davis’ double to the right-field corner scored them both. Jordy Mercer singled to score Davis and give the Pirates a 6-2 lead.
Locke held the Marlins, whose 22-11 record at home was the best in the majors entering the game and whose .279 average at Marlins Park ranked third, in check. He located his fastball on the inside of the plate against right-handers and disrupted hitters’ timing with an effective changeup.
“I would say between [Friday night] and the last start we just had, those really were when the changeups began taking off,” Locke said. “They’ve been a very effective pitch for me so far.”
Locke allowed two runs on seven hits in eight innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven, throwing 101 pitches.
In Locke’s two most recent starts since joining the rotation, he has allowed three runs in 15 innings while walking only one and striking out 12.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
First Published June 13, 2014 11:53 PM